veteran takes trip of a lifetime
War II veterans from the Tri State area were treated like royalty
on a recent trip to Washington, D.C. and Ripley County resident,
Clarence English, was among them.
Honor Flight Tri-State, headquartered in Cincinnati, has one goal
- that is to honor veterans who have made so many sacrifices by
taking them on the trip of a lifetime to see their memorial.
English told The Versailles Republican it truly was a memorable
day, one he will treasure always.
The day began with a light breakfast at the Wingate by Wyndham
in Blue Ash, OH. There the WWII veterans heard from the mayor
of Blue Ash, Mark Weber, who thanked them for their service.
Thank yous were plentiful as the trip continued. Strangers walked
up to the group, shook hands with the veterans and said thank
you for serving.
The group boarded a VIP Coach and headed for the Columbus, OH,
airport. They flew Southwest Airlines to Baltimore, MD.
The 80 veterans who didnt know each other until last Wednesday,
June 23, were quickly chatting away as if they were old friends.
No one was a stranger - they all had a common bond, war.
At the Baltimore airport a surprise awaited the entourage. Active
duty men and women of various branches of the military (mostly
Navy) lined the walls as the veterans parted the crowd with their
arrival. It was a parade like none other with people crowding
into the area where the veterans descended the plane.
Tears were flowing and smiles were broad as the veterans were
thanked over and over for paving the way for the world. You
are our heroes, one man in Navy whites told a veteran as
he clasped his hand.
Signs were waved and people from children to the elderly cheered
for the veterans.
After such an honorary welcome, the veterans were quickly whisked
through the airport, put on buses and headed for Washington, DC
to see their memorial.
Given the title The Greatest Generation is something
most WWII veterans feel is unnecessary. They are a respectful,
unassuming group, who quietly served their country and came home
with no expectations.
As they neared the memorial, a quiet reverence came over the crowd.
The memorial that was long overdue would mean something different
to each veteran.
These veterans fought and won the most devastating war in history.
According to British historian John Keegan, It (WWII) killed
50 million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded
in mind and body and devastated great parts of the world.
From December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor until
August 14, 1945, when Japan surrendered, hundreds of thousands
of American lives were lost. Four thousand gold stars adorn the
WWII Memorials Freedom Wall honoring the more than 400,000
Americans who gave their lives.
The memorial honors the 16 million across the world who served
and the many who supported the war effort on the home front.
The memorial is the center of attention situated between the Washington
Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Twin Atlantic and Pacific pavilions are in place symbolizing the
war fought across two oceans. Water is the focal point of the
memorial with the gushing fountains reminding those who served
of the waters they crossed to get to their destination.
English remembered well the journey he went on 67 years ago. He
left Blue Ash, OH, and traveled to Columbus, just as this trip
did. However, what would follow could not compare. He trained
at Camp Atterbury in Indiana and later on to foreign countries
he had never dreamed of going to.
He remembered the sinking feeling he experienced when he realized
the ship he was going over the ocean on looked like a sailboat
compared to some.
I wasnt sure it would make it, he noted. While
he didnt share a lot of memories from his wartime in Europe,
he did say he was proud to serve his country and very glad to
see the shores of home upon returning. You cant describe
the feeling, he said, as he remembered the ship docking
in the New York Harbor.
Higher ups in the military told the soldiers they wouldnt
be able to get off the ship that day when English came home. They
explained that since it was the Fourth of July the people dealing
with the paperwork werent working and the returning soldiers
would have to wait until the next day to disembark, English
told The Versailles Republican.
My heart sank to my shoe bottoms, English remembers.
He just wanted to go home to see his aging parents. He had a brother,
Paul, who received the purple heart medal in World War II, and
was anxious to see him and other family members.
Then we heard the band, English continued. A parade
formed complete with a band and the soldiers were whisked off
the ship with a homecoming they never expected. It was great,
Each veteran has his or her own story about coming home. The one
common thread is they were home and glad to be here.
The war was over - there had been enough death and destruction
- it was time to live.
Honor Flight Tri-State told all the veterans they were loved and
appreciated for their unselfish service that freed the world from
This group sends an open invitation to any veteran who served
before 1950 to go on a trip with them to Washington, DC. There
is no charge to the veterans, who are well taken care of on the
trip. They are given an all expense paid trip that includes three
meals, a T-shirt, souvenir, and enough memories to last a lifetime.
If you know of a WWII veteran who would like to make the trip,
you can simply go online to www.honorflighttristate.org and click
on application. With statistics showing that WWII veterans are
dying at 1200 a day, the group wants to include all they
can yet this year. There are two scheduled flights, one in July
and one in September.
English highly recommends the trip and says it was a great experience.
This group (Honor Flight Tri-State) really does a great
job, he concluded.
ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTOS
Pictured above Clarence English of Holton overlooks the
WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Pictured at left English
met Thomas Luckey from Kentucky who had also served in WWII.
Another common bond was Luckey knew people from the Holton
area. The two were part of a trip to the WWII Memorial on
the Honor Flight Tri-State trip.