World War II Navy Veteran Dave Ryner and guardian Marie Gilmore took an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. in April to see the World War II Memorial.

Dave Ryner is an 85 year-old with a great life. He and wife Ramona live in Clermont and love to travel, camp, quilt and spend time with their two boys, Pete and Bob. Pete is also retired and spent 31 years in the Air Force and Bob is an Assistant High School Principal. The families get together to camp often.

Ryner was 17 years old when he joined the Navy in 1945 and served six years during WWII and Korea.

In 1945, at the age of 17, Ryner signed up for the Navy, which was his best chance for a career at that time. He spent four years on the USS Appalachian, left the service and was recalled for two more years of service in Korea. In the Navy, Ryner was a dispersement officer and was responsible for paying the staff. Typically, paydays were in cash.

“No one on the ship had just one job,” explained Ryner. “I was disbursement, I was a 22 aircraft cannons and I was fire control.”

Ryner’s ship was an Amphibious Group Command (AGC) ship. “Everyone thought the big wig Admirals were on the battleships,” he explained. “But actually, they were on our ship.”

USS Appalachian (AGC-1) Photographed circa 1945-46. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

After his service, Ryner married, went to college and started a family. After college, he worked as a prison guard, got into sales and sold industrial chemicals and cleaning products. Later, after retirement, he would entertain children as a clown and even dressed up as Santa at Disney World one year. Finally, at 62, Ryner picked up substitute teaching and spent 20 years as a permanent High School substitute in Florida.

“I have retired three times,” explained Ryner, who credits the discipline and leadership skills he learned in the Navy with his success in business and life.

“Of course I credit God first,” said Ryner, “and then the Navy.”

Working in the prison, in sales and in high school, Ryner learned that treating people with respect and consideration got better results. In high school, Ryner says the kids never gave him any trouble. “If the kids behaved, I would use the balloon skills I learned as a clown and make them balloon creations. They really liked that and wouldn’t give me any trouble.”

Ryner is a cancer survivor and worked as a teacher throughout 14 months of chemotherapy.

During the Honor Flight return trip, a mail call brought a big envelope of mail to Ryner’s seat. Inside, were handwritten letters from local boy scout and girl scout troops, local school children and more importantly, Ryner’s two sons, two daughters-in-law, wife, granddaughters and even cousins in Arizona.

Tears were hard to fight back as letters described Ryner as a family patriarch who has given his entire family respect, love and leadership throughout their lives. His unshakeable faith in God has also impacted his family and his unwavering values have been instilled in the entire clan.

“This is just the most memorable experience,” described Ryner. “I can’t believe how well Honor Flight has put this trip together and how they were able to contact all of my family to write the letters.”

Ryner is proud of his service in the military and glad he served his country.

As his guardian for the day it was my pleasure to escort Dave around the memorials. Despite a trip there with my own children and family two years ago, it was nothing like the experience of seeing it hand-in-hand with a WWII Veteran.
Thank you, Dave, for making our world a better place. You continue to impact the lives around you each and every day.

For more information on Honor Flight, visit

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Marie Gilmore
Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!