ShareThis Page

Spirit Airlines gives Derry Township native, a World War II vet, an honor guard sendoff

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Fellow passenger Maureen Kane greets World War II veteran Mitch Chockla, 96, as he arrives at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. Chockla, a Derry Township native, will turn 97 on Thursday.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Fellow passenger Maureen Kane greets World War II veteran Mitch Chockla, 96, as he arrives at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. Chockla, a Derry Township native, will turn 97 on Thursday.
Spirit Airlines employees (from left) Mark Peitz, Cheyanne Gregorich and Mary Arebo pose for a photo with Mitch Chockla, 96, of Miami and his daughter, Barbara Woodward (back) after arriving from Florida to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. Chockla, a World War II veteran, was returning to his hometown of Derry Township to celebrate a family reunion.
Courtesy of Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines employees (from left) Mark Peitz, Cheyanne Gregorich and Mary Arebo pose for a photo with Mitch Chockla, 96, of Miami and his daughter, Barbara Woodward (back) after arriving from Florida to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. Chockla, a World War II veteran, was returning to his hometown of Derry Township to celebrate a family reunion.
Mitchel 'Mitch' Chockla, who turns 97 on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, was born and raised in Derry Township. Officials in South Miami, Fla., where he lives, renamed a street in his honor in April.
submitted
Mitchel 'Mitch' Chockla, who turns 97 on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, was born and raised in Derry Township. Officials in South Miami, Fla., where he lives, renamed a street in his honor in April.

Derry Township native “Mitch” Chockla is one of the Greatest Generation that pulled the United States and its allies through World War II, and his achievements on the battlefields of Europe are receiving added attention as he approaches a century of experience.

“It's overwhelming. I can't believe it's happening,” Chockla said of recent honors, including having the street where he lives in South Miami, Fla., named Mitchel Chockla Court this past spring.

The accolades continued Tuesday as he and his daughter, Barbara Woodward, were sent off by an honor guard — including officers with the Broward Sheriff's Office — as they boarded a Spirit Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity for a 10-day visit and family reunion in his hometown.

Chockla, who will celebrate his 97th birthday Thursday, served under General George S. Patton in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, in roles including an advance scout and assistant squad leader. Chockla saw action in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France that earned him multiple military awards, including two Bronze Stars and six Battle Stars.

More than seven decades later, he still feels the effects of the severe wounds that also earned him a Purple Heart during an engagement with the enemy on Nov. 22, 1944, near the border between France and Germany.

“It's not the wounds as much as the memories,” he said. “You never can brush the memories away.”

“Day in and day out, we were fighting,” he said of his unit's struggle to gain ground against German troops.

Shrapnel ripped through Chockla's right elbow and his left hand, but pieces that lodged in the skin below his right breast caused him the most immediate concern. “I could feel the blood running down,” he recalled.

His previous recovery from a bout of malaria in Sicily was brief compared with the months of care and rehabilitation he underwent in hospitals in France, England, Scotland and stateside in Richmond, Va., before his discharge as a sergeant near the war's end.

Chockla was one of six brothers who all served in and survived the war.

In his civilian career, Chockla began working for the now-defunct Westinghouse plant in Derry, a job he returned to after the war. He soon got a job as a letter carrier with the Postal Service and, after delivering mail in the winter weather, welcomed a transfer to Florida in 1950. He retired in 1980 but has remained involved with his community and his generation's legacy, meeting with a dwindling group of fellow World War II veterans in Florida.

“There were 30 to 35 of us,” he said. “Now we're down to about three or four.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.