Of course all of the trips we’ve made since our first in November 2007 have been a blessing to meet and spend time with our aging hero veterans. And this trip was no exception. One thing that made this trip different was that we finally got permission to pull our luxury chartered coach up to the discharge area at the entrance to the Pentagon 911 Memorial. We would like to have had something better than a cold miserable rain that made for a fast visit of the intriguing memorial to those lost on the hijacked plane and inside the building, but we were thankful to get what we got.
In the mix of WWII and Korean War veterans we had a retired dairy farmer now living in Washington, MO who was a Navy fireman in the Carolina Islands and South Korea; a female radio operator; a Master Sergeant who was in a tank battalion on the Philippines, a radar operator on the USS Saint Paul that fired the last shots at Japan in WWII and in the Korean War; a B-17 co-pilot who ditched in the English Channel on his first mission as his four engines one by one gave way and on his 17th mission after he was shot down over Germany and was a POW in Stalag Luft III and was in the Death March from Sagan to Spremburg. There were also veterans from Osan, Saigon, Ubon, Taiwan, China, and Japan; medics; submariners; and one who served in the motor pool in Austria.
It was a joy to spend the day with Joe Kunkel who served in Guam, Hawaii, and at other locations in the Pacific on transport planes. Some know Joe as the South St. Louis Pretzel man who faithfully stood his watch for over 30 years at the corner of Jamieson and Fyler Avenues. A surprise awaited us at the end of the long day upon returning to the BWI airport to see Honor Flight Founder Earl Morse waiting for us as our coach pulled up to the curb.
We were proud to have one of Missouri’s Finest, Trooper Huntley Hoemann and Miss Tippe Emmott, Miss Missouri for 2012-1013 as guardians. Over and over the veterans on this and all of the trips are tearfully amazed at the all of attention and appreciation they are given by those encounter from the wee hours of the morning to the late night arrival back in Washington, MO.