For military veterans, Honor Flight is a day they always will remember — the applause from people, their greetings of “thank you for your service,” the hugs given to veterans in wheelchairs, the genuine respect afforded by people of all ages, especially from women and young girls, and, of course, what they viewed in Washington, D.C.
Franklin County Honor Flight spread its professional wings again Wednesday to take 33 military veterans and their Guardians to our nation’s capital where they visited memorials dedicated to them and other monuments. Honor Flight is a one-day event that is free to veterans. The Guardians pay their own way and look after the veterans in a competent and caring manner.
Along the way, the veterans swaped stories and enjoyed the companionship that results. In some cases, there was a renewal of friendships that had faded due to distance and the different paths taken. Wednesday’s group consisted chiefly of Korean War veterans, with several World War II vets in the group.
The leaders of Franklin County Honor Flight have their drill sharpened to a fine point. No details are overlooked. Their experience in the operation is obvious. Meeting a tight schedule is routine. We don’t know of any other program that would be able to afford veterans, or any other group, the opportunities to see so much in such a short period of time.
We talked to some of the veterans at dinner in Maryland near the Baltimore airport and asked them about their impressions:
Ray Wieneke, Washington, an Army veteran of World War II who was at the Battle of the Bulge, said the trip was one of the highlights of his life. “Everybody will be glad to hear about the trip from me. Everything was planned well. It was smooth. No one could come to Washington to see what we did in one day. In fact, they couldn’t do it in three days. The information given to us on the bus (by a volunteer guide) was excellent.” He added that he enjoyed being with his Guardian-relative, Kelsea Hartmann, Catawissa.
Ray Sovar, Villa Ridge, a Korean War veteran, said he was impressed by the reception given to Honor Flight members. “All I can say is wow!” He added: “The reception given leaves me with a great and humbling feeling. Youngsters stood in line to greet and thank us. I have to admit, I kinda got choked up.” He served in the Army.
Paul Collins, Perryville, who at age 90 flew for the first time in his life and was referred to as the “virgin flyer” in the group. He is a World War II veteran of the Army who also fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He said, “I will go again if (Honor Flight) they have an opening. We did a lot in one day.” Paul enjoys good health and is retired from construction work in St. Louis.
Ken Fleer, Washington, served in the Air Force during the Korean War. His tour of duty included 30 months in Japan. He said the trip was very informative and he again enjoyed visiting the Korean War Memoral. He praised the work of the Honor Flight personnel and said it was a “smooth” operation. He was particularly impressed with the Pentagon Memorial.
Chips Rector, Wentzville, served in the Navy during the Korean War. He was greatly impressed with the World War II Memorial. He said the locaton of the memorial offers great views.
Bob Henderson, Union, is an Army veteran who said he couldn’t recommend that Honor Flight do anything different. “I enjoyed seeing all of the monuments and I am satisfied with everything about the trip.”
John “Shorty” Fees, Union, served in the Army in Korea for 17 months. “I enjoyed all the monuments and Arlington Cemetery, and changing of the guard . . . the trip was perfect.”
Marv Meyers, St. Louis County, was in the Navy during the Korean War. “I was really impressed with the whole trip. It was a class act.” He saw the monuments for the first time.
Fred Rosenthal, St. Louis County, served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1955. “It was an excellent program. Beautiful job. A neat trip.” It was the frst time he saw the memorials.
Rodney Eggers, Washington, said everything was right about the trip. The changing of the guard “was impessive.” He said he had not seen all of the memorials before. He is an Air Force veteran of the Korean War.
Frank Weber, Pacific, served in the Army during the Korean War. He said the trip was outstanding, and he would have liked to stay at Arlington Cemetery longer. He hadn’t been in Washington, D.C., since 1952. “I enjoyed it all. A better checking system of people on the bus would help.” His granddaughter, Lindsay Flick, Eureka, was his Guardian. Her trip was paid for by the Elks Lodge in Eureka. “I was just talking about the trip in the restaurant where I work and I guess they found out about the trip that way.”
Jim Cape, Cuba, Mo., said the visit to the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns (soldiers) was the most impressive part of the trip to him. He is a Korean War veteran. Overall, he rated the trip as “excellent.”
Frank Chase, Union, is an Air Force veteran who said he really enjoyed the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. He said there was quite a bit of walking, “but they couldn’t help that.” In the Air Force he did fly in B-29 bombers during the Korean War, but said he doesn’t like to fly today.
Ken Burnett, St. Clair, served in the Army in Germany during the Korean War. “The trip was very good, It was well planned. I enjoyed the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. They were very precise. Even with the veterans in wheelchairs, they got around OK.”
Cornelius Gloth, Wentzville, served in the Army during the Korean War. “I really enjoyed it. I liked the whole trip. It was not long enough.”
Bill Kickbusch, Rolla, is an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. “I enjoyed the Korean War Memorial the most. This was the first time to see the memorials, but they were on my bucket list. It was a great trip. Everybody was so thoughtful and considerate.”