South Plains Honor Flight visits Tomb of the Unknown; shows gratitude to women, Marines, Army veterans
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The 2022 Texas South Plains Honor Flight began with quiet and solemn honors and ended with a celebration of our veterans 50 years overdue.
The three buses filled with more than 80 veterans weaved through Arlington National Cemetery Sunday morning, passing the rows of headstones before coming to a stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Third Infantry Regiment conducted the traditional Changing of the Guard at 9:00 a.m.
Outside the gates of Arlington National Cemetery is the Women in Military Service of America Memorial where women veterans on the flight stood for a photograph.
“Everyone should know what the women did for all the people in all the different wars,” Marilynn Mabry, an Army veteran, said.
Mabry said she joined the armed forces after seven years of teaching. She’s one of four women veterans on the flight.
“This is the biggest honor you could have,” Mabry said. “It takes your breath away. I’ve been excited about this for weeks.”
The Marines lined up in formation to march into the Marine Corps Memorial for a wreath laying.
Bobbie Haynes told KCBD he can’t wait to return again to see the monument built with gratitude for their service.
“It’s the first time I’ve been here,” Haynes said. “It makes you proud to be an American and a Marine.”
Haynes served during the Vietnam War, one of many conflicts the Marine Corps was a part of engraved along the memorial.
“You signed a contract with the United States and you did what you were told, good or bad,” Haynes said “It was good for me, the highlight of my life.”
Phil Botik led the procession along the flight’s military liaison to place the wreath beneath the massive sculpture depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima. He’s also a Vietnam veteran.
“I was very proud of all that I did and who I represented and our country,” Botik. “To come back and be part of a ceremony like this is really neat and something to experience. I’m glad I’m here.”
The South Plains Honor Flight visited the National Museum of the United States Army for the first time after it opened in 2020.
As veterans surrounded the large seal of the Army, veteran Paul Hartman strode across it to place the final wreath of the day.
“I’m emotional, always been,” Hartman said as tears filled his eyes. “I enjoyed it.”
The 90-year-old is a veteran of the Korean War. When asked about what it means to serve our country, he had a simple but meaningful response.
“It’s an honor.”
After dinner Sunday evening the Vietnam veterans were each presented with a lapel pin inscribed with “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. The organization has a mission to show gratitude and honor to Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
The Texas South Plains Honor Flight will visit the Marine Corps Museum, Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Memorial on its final day Monday.
Supporters of the Honor Flight are invited to the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport to welcome the veterans home Monday night. The arrival is set for 8:45 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring $2 in cash for a more efficient exit from the parking lot.
The Honor Flight is a free trip for veterans. To donate to the nonprofit and volunteer organization, click here.
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