"I think it's wonderful we have so many from Plainview here that can share this together," says Jill Freeman. Her dad, J. W. Hamby added, "We started this trip together, the three of us." Hamby is talking about a friendship that goes back before World War II, when he, James Crossland and S.M. True were buddies at Plainview High School. This summer, they drove from Plainview to Lubbock with the same dream… getting a spot on the first South Plains Honor Flight. As word spread, the list grew to include six World War II veterans from Plainview.
Remember Doug Douglas? The veteran who came off the plane in Washington hollering, "Yeah, here we go!"
He's one of the Plainview bunch. At 92, he was full of energy from the start, and like all the others, grateful to be here. Another Plainview veteran, Loyd Belt (86) said, "I'm honored and thankful to all the people who made this flight possible for us." But one of the three who made that first drive to Lubbock didn't make it to Washington.
David True explains, "Dad died May 15." S.M. True died suddenly in a farm accident. So his buddies made sure his picture went with them to every memorial. David added, "My dad was a night fighter in WWII. I'd give anything if he were here." It was in his Dad's honor, that David became a volunteer for the South Plains Honor Flight, like about 40 other family members or friends who paid their own way from Lubbock or other locations to join the tour and escort a veteran to make sure their journey was a safe one.
Jeff Headrick is another volunteer. He came to help his dad, Robert "Pap" Headrick (91).
Jeff says, "This is a blessing to be here with my Dad. He is the epitome of the greatest generation." Like all the other veterans on the Honor Flight, we honor them for their service and the suffering that came with world war II, something many have not spoken of until gathering here at these memorials.
Bill Paseark (89) points to the statue of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and says, "The war was such suffering and death. It's statues like this with these people that make it seem alright." Phil Crenshaw, who served as the Chaplain on the Honor Flight, explains, "This is kind of a closure for them to cement that memory in their minds."
Doug Douglass agrees. "Lots of memories", he says, "Lots of memoires." *It was bittersweet when Doug and the rest of the Plainview bunch gathered at the Iwo Jima memorial to send a picture back for the Plainview Daily Herald. Also from Plainview, Richard Rodgers, who came as a volunteer since his dad, Sydney, was on the flight, said, "I've known all these men all my life. It's emotional. Praise God we got them."
As the years go by and World War II becomes more distant, it's estimated that as many as a thousand of those veterans are dying every day and with them, a story is lost. Charles Sears (89) who served in the army during World War II, says, "I had a tank blowed up on me with a mine in a mine field." Charles fought in the Atlantic, while his brother Ernest was in the Pacific. So what does a trip like this mean 67 years later?
James Crossland (87) in the Air Force in World War II, described it like this, "It brings back some memories that you've kind of forgotten. Maybe you want to forget. But it's worth the trip, wonderful trip."
The last picture of the entire group was beside the Lincoln memorial and front and center was Doug Douglas. Forty-eight hours after returning home to a cheering crowd at the Lubbock airport, he died in his sleep. His family in Plainview later told us that in those last two days, all he could talk about was the trip of a lifetime.
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