Faith, family, and freedom: A reflection on one veteran’s Honor Flight journey

Faith, family, and freedom: A reflection on one veteran’s Honor Flight journey

Faith, family, and freedom: A reflection on one veteran’s Honor Flight journey

Faith, family, and freedom: A reflection on one veteran’s Honor Flight journey


Honor Flight Chicago is a nonprofit organization that pays tribute to American veterans with a one-of-a-kind journey to Washington, D.C. for a day of honor and remembrance. The group has been organizing and facilitating the one-day, all-expense-paid trips to Washington, D.C. for veterans to tour the monuments built in their honor and reflect on their service since 2008.

Due to a shared commitment to recognizing the contributions and sacrifice of U.S. veterans, Wintrust is a proud supporter of Honor Flight Chicago and its mission to celebrate the bravery, determination, and patriotism of our nation’s senior war veterans. After a pandemic-induced hiatus in 2020, Honor Flight Chicago resumed its frequent trips to Washington, D.C. in 2021. For one Wintrust employee, the organization’s late August flight carried special meaning.

Julius Spognardi, veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and father-in-law of Wintrust’s very own Kathleen Gallagher, was able to make the trip.

The son of Italian immigrants, Julius grew up in Mansfield, Ohio and joined the U.S. Coast Guard at age 18 to serve in the Korean War in 1951. He spent a significant portion of his service sailing the seas of China, Russia, and more in a destroyer escort, assuring the safe passage of personnel and supplies. Upon discharge, Julius hitchhiked from San Francisco all the way home to Mansfield, where he and his late wife, Audrey, raised three sons—one of whom Kathleen is married to.

Julius, along with 32 Korean War, 76 Vietnam War, and three World War II veterans, participated in the 96th Honor Flight Chicago that left Chicago for a somewhat rainy Washington, D.C. on August 18, 2021. There, they were ushered into the city like the heroes they are for a day full of tributes, memorial tours, and newfound friendships among peers.

“Julius was one tired veteran when he returned to home to find his loving sons and wife waiting to give him one more hero’s welcome,” Kathleen said.

Throughout his life, Julius has been a patriotic supporter of the American values he fought to preserve during his time in the service, Kathleen said. His devotion to his family is a constant and evident to all in big and small ways, from his planning a family trip to Italy in 2010 to how much he enjoys small conversations with relatives like centurion Aunt Rosina. His life has been remarkably full and remains that way—Julius remarried at age 75 after meeting his now-wife, Lois, at church. Their wedding had over 200 guests!

“Family, faith, and freedom define Julius,” Kathleen remarked. “This was an incredible experience for him, and it is with much pride that I share the deep ties Wintrust has with Honor Flight and their support and celebration of veterans.”

Veterans like Julius and their loving family members like Kathleen are why Wintrust proudly supports organizations like Honor Flight Chicago.

To learn more about Honor Flight Chicago, visit

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