World War II Veteran has a plane joyride

MEDFORD, Ore. – A local World War II veteran was taken for a ride in a historical airplane as an early birthday surprise.

George Zentgraf is 98, going on 99 years old.

It was his friends and family behind the plane joyride surprise.

George served in World War II after Pearl Harbor was hit, when he was sixteen.

Just after his service he got married and had a family.

He and his wife were marriedĀ for over 70 years.

Today, he lives at ‘Alderwood Assisted Living’ in Central Point.

That’s where he befriended the owner, Charles Bloom, who wanted to do something for George, because he feels it’s important to cherish veterans and their service.

Bloom said, “we wouldn’t have the life we have today, if it weren’t for these people that served in World War II, and I think that it’s important for them to know that we still remember them and we still respect what they did for us.”

Bloom got in contact with ‘Dream Flights’ who aim to give veterans a great experience by taking them for a ride in historical planes.

Many of George’s family came to support him and witness his ascent.

Clint Cawley was George’s pilot for his ride in the sky.

Cawley said, “this airplane was built in the early 1940s, we have five of them in the fleet. They were originally used to train World War II pilots, and this is what they first started flying. Now we’re using them to give back and we’ve kind of come full circle to the World War II veterans and veterans in general, to give them a dream flight experience.”

And a dream experience it was.

When George came back down from the skies, he was truly moved, at a loss for words and humbled by the support from his loved ones.

George Zentgraf said, “it was absolutely… I can’t put it into words sir… I just can’t. Thank you all for even… I’m not worthy of all this… But I so much appreciate it, thank you.”

For everyone who came out to see George fly, it’s more than an early birthday surprise.

The Jackson County commissioner, Dave Dotterrer paid a visit, and says veterans need to be celebrated.

Dotterrer said “I am the son of a World War II veteran. I lost my father several years ago. There are very few of them left but it truly is the greatest generation, and all the sacrifices that they made and what they did were so special.”

Some of George’s children were also present, and they all agreed that this was an opportunity to cherish their father.

George’s son, Jim Zentgraf said “It’s almost emotional, you know knowing… He is a World War II vet. He’s 98 years old… Hate to say it but he won’t be with us that much longer. It’s great to see it and it’s great to celebrate when we can.”

George is surrounded by loved ones with six kids, ten grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren and a fifth-generation child.

To his loved ones, his story of soldier to family man is a triumph.

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Maximus Osburn is a reporter for NBC5 News. He studied at California State University-Northridge, graduating with a degree in Broadcasting. Maximus is an avid martial arts enthusiast and combat sports fan. He even traveled to Thailand to train with martial arts experts. Maximus loves movies, nature, and doing things outside his comfort zone, like swimming in sub-freezing lakes in the winter.
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