South Plains Honor Flight welcomed to Washington D.C.; pays tribute to WWII, Navy, Air Force veterans
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The 2022 Texas South Plains Honor Flight arrived in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to begin a three-day journey across the nation’s capital.
The more than 80 veterans marched through a multi-agency Honor Guard made up of personnel from the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, Lubbock Police Department, Department of Public Safety and Lubbock Fire Rescue at the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport to board the three-hour flight.
While en route to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), the veterans received letters in what’s known as “mail call.”
Mike Horton, and Army veteran who served during Vietnam, recalled the importance of receiving treasured items from home, even a batch of cookies that became stale in a long transport.
“Anything that tied a soldier to home was the bright spot of their day,” Horton said.
Horton said on this flight, one letter in particular touched him the most.
“My daughter was 9 days old when I deployed to Vietnam,” Horton said. “One of those letters was from her. It nearly brought me to tears.”
The passengers awaiting their own flights in the terminal at BWI rose to their feet and cheered as the veterans got off the plane from Lubbock.
“It was very nice, very nice,” Marvin Baugh, a member of the Air Force during Korea and Vietnam, said. “I was surprised, but it was wonderful. It hits you and tugs at the ol’ heart strings.”
The first stop and first wreath laying was at the World War II Memorial. In place of a WWII veteran placing the wreath at the memorial, James Belk who served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War led the procession to the Wall of Stars, 4,048 gold stars with each representing 100 fallen American service members.
“It was quite an honor,” Belk said. “It’s something you don’t get to do every day.”
Belk said he through of his fellow service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War.
“I really understood what we’re doing and why,” Belk said. “It’s just a shame that we have to do this to remember those guys, but so easily we forget if we don’t do something like this.”
The Washington Navy Yard was the next stop where Preston Poole, a Korean War veteran, led his fellow sailors in a wreath laying inside the museum.
“Your service never leaves you,” Poole said. “This renews your faith in a lot of stuff.”
Finally, the three buses of veterans, guardians and staff arrived at the Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon in Virginia for one more wreath laying.
Ted James served in the Korean War, as well. He placed the wreath alongside the flight’s military liaison at the foot of one of the three towering spirals.
“That was a sobering, emotional thing for me at my age,” James said.
He said it was particularly emotion thinking of his uncle who died flying in a mission in the South Pacific. While he never saw his uncle again, he said military service in his family was not questioned.
“It’s part of a job of being a citizen of this country,” James said.
Military service also runs in the family of Mike and Marla Bryan, who as husband and wife are traveling as Air Force Vietnam veterans on the flight.
“I hadn’t been out of the Air Force a year or so when she went in and we had just got married,” Mike said.
Mike found himself a dependent of Marla’s, creating an unusual situation for the military.
“It was breaking ground, it really was,” Marla said.
“We both enjoyed it,” Mike said. “I’m proud I served.”
The honor shown to the Bryans and their fellow Vietnam veterans has been a welcome change.
“The flight has been awesome,” Marla said. “It’s great being with people who had the same experiences we did. They had the bad homecoming and it’s great that Americans are starting to respect our generation.”
It’s respect the Texas South Plains Honor Flight will continue to show over the next two days.
Click here to donate to the flight, which is free of charge to veterans. The nonprofit organization relies on the generosity of the community to continue its mission.
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