Finding Comfort In Memories Of Military Service
Honor Flight Veterans Recall Loss & Sacrifice So That We Don't Forget
The Veterans honor flight of North Dakota and Minnesota brings back vivid memories for the veterans who visit our nation’s capital.
Sometimes the worst memories of their lives.
I found out on the latest honor flight that those memories gives our veterans comfort that we won’t forget what they did for our country.
To serve is to sacrifice.
These veterans know that.
Veteran Jim Boley adds, “And some of them sacrificed a lot.”
They sacrificed in different ways.
Some gave extra time. Russell McDougle was planning to get out of the army in 1951, but then the Korean War broke out.
He says, “They extended me one year in the service. I volunteered the first three. They volunteered me the last year.”
Some gave their youth.
They lost friends on the battlefield. That makes some of these war memorials difficult to view.
Boley served in both Korea and Vietnam.
At the Korean War memorial, he explains, “This one here I can stand in front of. I didn’t know anybody in my outfit that was killed. But the Vietnam one I can’t go down to.”
They lost family, like Jacob DeHaan.
His brother died in a Korean prison camp in 1952.
A two-day journey through the memorials and monuments made in their honor reminds them of some of the worst times of their lives.
“I got tears,” says DeHaan.
But this Honor Flight is an experience none of these 92 veterans would pass up.
McDougle says, “This is the greatest thing that I’ve been to in a long, long time.”
It’s a trip many of them have been waiting years, or even decades for.
Veteran Jerry Walker explains, “This is my first time. It was on my bucket list.”
DeHaan says, “I wanted to do it in the service but I just didn’t get around to traveling.”
The painful memories of loss and sacrifice help form a bond.
“It’s healing in a way,” Boley says. “You get a chance to visit with some other people who went through the same experience that you did because somebody who hasn’t been through it, they can’t reflect.”
A bond they share with today’s service members, both enduring pouring rain to honor the fallen at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Veteran Ron Wysocki says, “You’ve got to admire them guys doing it, in this type of weather. They’re doing it all the time in snow, cold.”
DeHaan adds, “I always say they do it in the rain, and I have to be here in the rain.”
These monuments set in stone give comfort that their sacrifice won’t be forgotten once they’re gone.
“It’s just so important that everybody can come and see what went on and how many of our people died for our freedom,” says Walker.
They also give us a chance to remember the people we’ve already lost. A display at the Korean War Memorial honored veterans who died before they got a chance to go on an honor flight.
There, Dehaan left a photo of the brother he idolized.
He talks about his brother, saying “6 foot 7. Tall. Very engineered. He could fix stuff, work. He could invent anything.”
That’s the point of the honor flight. To make sure they know we won’t forget. From the greeting to our Nation’s Capital complete with a town crier, to the rock star treatment they get to welcome them home.
98-year-old veteran Raymond Sevigny says the welcoming, “Looks pretty good as far as I’m concerned.”
Going forward, it’s our job to keep that promise.
A truly small price to pay compared to what we asked them to give up years ago.
These veterans gave a lot for our country, but they remain selfless.
Almost everyone we talked to made sure to thank honor flight organizers for helping them get to Washington, D.C.
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