The staff at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice recognized Thomas Eubanks, a 102-year-old World War II Veteran, who was a B-17 tail gunner, for his service on Memorial Day with a virtual Veteran recognition ceremony that was shared with his family.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the extended care facility where he resides in Springfield, Ohio, has restricted visitors. But thanks to Zoom video conferencing, the staff at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice and the activity staff at the extended care facility were able to connect the family with Eubanks. Through Zoom, Eubanks’ children, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were able to join one another virtually to watch the Veteran recognition ceremony.
“The Veteran recognition ceremony was very special for Dad, and I think more so for his family,” said David Eubanks, a son of Eubanks. “We are a military family, and we have nothing but respect and admiration for our father and his generation for what they had to endure. We are very proud of Dad.”
The ceremony was made even more special for Eubanks with the presence of his great-granddaughter, Brooke, a nursing student who works at the assisted living facility where he resides.
“It meant the world to him to have Brooke there during the Veteran recognition ceremony, especially during this time,” David Eubanks said. “He is very lonely and misses his family. His family usually spends a lot of time with him.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice continues to honor Veteran patients each and every day for their service to the nation. Through American Pride® Veteran Care by Ohio’s Hospice, Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice honors the service of Veteran patients and assures them of receiving the highest quality of care. In addition to celebrating and thanking Veterans for their service, American Pride assists patients in obtaining access to all the benefits to which Veterans are eligible, provides spiritual support, and addresses individual post-traumatic stress issues.
The care team at Ohio’s Community Mercy worked diligently to conduct the Veteran recognition ceremony on Memorial Day, coordinating with the family to make sure as many family members as possible could attend the Zoom video conference.
“I’m so grateful to our team and the leadership at Ohio’s Hospice for organizing and planning the Veteran recognition ceremony for Thomas Eubanks on Memorial Day,” said Catherine Trimmer, care manager at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice. “Our Veterans hold a special place in our hearts. We were honored and privileged to recognize him.”
Born in 1918 in Springfield, Thomas Eubanks attended South High School. He married his wife Suzanne Gallehue, in May 1941. He was working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a machinist when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1943. He tried to enlist in the military earlier, but his civilian job and his eyesight prevented him from joining. He tried again and finally got into the U.S. Army. He started as a ground soldier. Because of his job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he was put in charge of armory. He trained with that unit and then was ordered to Fort Sill in Oklahoma as a heavy artillery mechanic. While at Fort Sill, a buddy of his signed them up for the Army Air Corps.
“During this whole time, my mother traveled with my dad, and they lived off base from the very beginning, which was not the norm,” David Eubanks said. “I can’t recall all of the bases they were at. There were probably a half dozen or so. Dad ended up as a B-17 tail gunner in the 8th Air Corp 388th Bomb Group 562 Bombardment Squadron.”
Eubanks’ wife, Suzanne, who was married to him for 59 years before she died, followed him from base to base for most of training as an air crew member. She knew his crew and had dinner with them.
Eubanks and his crew arrived in Knettishall, England, in December 1944. The crew flew its first mission on Valentine’s Day in 1945. He completed 13 combat missions before Germany surrendered. He also participated in several other support missions. Thomas Eubanks earned three Bronze stars, an Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster, a Distinguished Unit Badge with one oak leaf cluster, an American Theater Service Medal, a European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.
“He never really said a lot about the war until later in life,” David Eubanks said. “My brother and I took Dad to a couple of 388th Bomb Group reunions. That’s when we started hearing more. Dad never said much about fear. They were there to do a mission and go home.”
After World War II, Thomas Eubanks returned to his hometown of Springfield. He and his wife had four children, Sandy, Steve, Cathy and David. Their family grew to include 10 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
For most of his adult life, Thomas Eubanks and his wife lived around Springfield and the North Hampton area. For a short period of time, they lived in Idaho and southern Ohio. He held several jobs, working as a machinist, construction worker and lumber worker. He also worked in the Department of the U.S. Navy in Quality Assurance. He retired from the City of Springfield as a building inspector.
David Eubanks describes his father as a self-taught man. He gained his machinist, gunsmith, construction, architectural drawing and other skills by reading and doing it on his own until he had mastered those skills.
“He was self-taught in so many fields. He would say you can teach yourself anything. He would spend hours drawing house plans just for fun,” he said. “He had his hand in most of his children’s homes one way or another, whether it was during the building phase or the remodel. As recently as five years ago when my wife and I built a new house, I called my dad constantly for advice on proper procedures during the different phases of construction.”
Thomas Eubanks was a true handyman. “I joke all the time that a repairman would go broke at our house because Dad fixed everything,” David Eubanks said. “The only thing he wouldn’t work on is a car. He had my brother for that job.”
His father also enjoyed gardening. “Growing up, my father always had a garden along with rose bushes and other plants,” David Eubanks said.
In addition, Thomas Eubanks was a part-time gunsmith. He had a small shop behind the house where he would repair and build guns. He was on a muzzle loading shooting team and traveled around surrounding states to shoot. He loved to hunt and fish. During retirement, he also enjoyed spending the summer months in Montana with his wife.
David Eubanks and his siblings are grateful for the recognition their father received during the Veteran recognition ceremony. But mostly, they are proud of their father’s service to the United States.
“We’re a military family,” he said. “Sandy’s husband, Tom, retired from the Air Force Reserve. Cathy’s husband, Rick, retired from the Army National Guard with two tours in Iraq. Steve retired from the Air National Guard with 34 years of service. My wife, Debi, retired from the United States Air Force, and I retired from the Air National Guard. Dad has grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have served and are currently serving. He set a great example for all of us. We’re so proud of him.”