World War II veterans and Rosie the Riveters will be honored at Grosse Ile Gala Friday night

Inaugural Veterans Gala to be held in Grosse Ile

GROSSE ILE, Mich. (WXYZ) - The Greatest Generation will receive a special salute at the Grosse Ile Naval Station Hangar 1 on September 10th.  It's the Inaugural Veterans Gala.

Swing dancing and 1940s costumes will be part of the charm of this USO-themed shin-dig. 

Classic cars and model airplanes will also be on display, and local boy scouts will be on hand for the celebration.

Ed Ochen will be among the honored guests.  The 86-year-old was a B-26 pilot during World War II.  He flew 60 missions over Europe including one crash landing. 

"I was just a kid when I was in the Air Force.  When I got my wings, I was 20-and-a-half," Ochen recalled. 

His son-in-law is helping to organize a USO-style gala honoring about 90 B-26 pilots and other veterans along with a group of Rosie the Riveters. 

"In those days you didn't have a girlfriend.  You just grabbed any girl, and you danced with them," said Ochen chuckling a bit about a USO memory in London during the war.

He is very pleased his fellow pilots will be receiving such a warm welcome Friday night.

The B-26 Historical Society Veterans will arrive by bus at the back of the Grosse Ile Naval State Hangar Friday night.  Among the Rosie the Riveters attending is a woman who is 102 years old!

When they walk inside, they'll receive a heroes' welcome from the local high school band and everyone in attendance.

"We're trying to make it look as authentic as we can.  We hope people will show up in costume.  We have swing dancers coming in.  We're going to have a contest for best costume and swing dance," explained co-organizer Kerry Diehl.

"Oh, I think it's just going to be one of those deja vu moments.  We're just going to step back in time," said Jackie Wakeling who creates historical clothing at her shop Past Reflections.

She'll be dancing in costume with several hundred others who have bought tickets.  There has been an overwhelming response to this first-ever event in Grosse Ile.  The tickets are sold out.

You cannot even buy any tickets at the door Friday night.

But you can thank a veteran for their service when you see them. 

"These gentlemen have laid down their lives for America, and we would like to give back," said Sharon Tocco -- one of the singers who will be performing at the Gala.

"Our World War II veterans...are disappearing.  They deserve the honor," said Diehl."