It was an honor


For going on 10 years, a group of volunteers has sent veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict Era, and the Vietnam Era to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials honoring their service to our country.  

ThesHonor Flights originate all over our country.  I, along with Walter Strohl, Clinton; and Alfred Hasselbrock, Kenny; were given the honor of being on one of these flights, hosted by the Land of Lincoln group from Springfield.  My guardian, those who are to watch out for us during the day,and keep us out of trouble, was Sue Lichty, of Heyworth.    

This flight was also special for me because, when I returned home from Vietnam, I arrived to an empty airport.  No fanfare, no welcome home, no family or friends.  I had been raised in an era when we were taught in school about veterans returning from war to parades and thousands of people greeting them at docks, train stations and airports.  

Not so for me or most of my friends.  This time we were greeted everywhere by well-wishers thanking us for our service.  

To visit our nation’s capitol was beyond words.  Our first stop was a new one for the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight. It was the U.S. Naval Memorial (I served as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy, and at times attached to the U.S. Marines and with the U.S. Army).  This was a great start to the experiences of the day.  We also met Rep. Rodney Davis.  

Of course, there was the Vietnam Wall Memorial, where both I and my guardian found names of relatives.  We  visited the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial of the flag raising on Iwo Jima (my father was a Marine serving in the area and there is a hospital corpsman represented on this memorial).  

We also made stops at the World War II Memorial, the Korean Conflict Memorial, the U.S. Air Force Memorial, the Air & Space Museum and Arlington Cemetery with the Tomb of the Unknowns.  All amazing and moving places to visit.  

How can one ever express all the emotions and thoughts that are experienced on one of these flights.  I started with an idea and it is actually at the point where I could write volumes and not tell everything that I experienced.  

From a guardian whom we now feel as part of our family, to actually having hundreds greet us everywhere and shaking our hands while thanking us for our service, it was the experience of a lifetime.   And this time, family met me at the end of the flight.  

I now feel more like I have finally arrived home at last.  And, I can’t forget the motorcade and welcome home here in Clinton at midnight, no less.  

A special thanks to the veterans and previous honor flight participants for their support and the hometown crowd that stuck it out at a late hour to greet us, plus a huge thank you to Jeff Morlock, the local coordinator between the honor flights, the local veterans’ groups, and the community.   

And veterans, if you haven’t gone on a flight as a veteran, you need to sign up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.