COLUMBUS, Ohio – On October 19th, Honor Flight Columbus loaded more than 200 veterans aboard two planes destined for Washington D.C. It was an extra special celebration – the 100th mission. Susan Barr, a nurse who has been working with Honor Flight nationally since 2006 and co-founded the Columbus Honor Flight told The Ohio Star, “To date, over 230,000 Veterans have been able to make this trip from all over the United States.”
She also said the Columbus branch has flown more than 6,000 veterans to D.C. so far. Barr shared the history of Honor Flight: “The Honor Flight Network was co-founded by Earl Morse, the son of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, and Jeff Miller, a small business owner and son of a WWII veteran.”
Honor Flight Columbus’ website explains their purpose,
The Mission of Honor Flight Columbus is to:
- Honor our nation’s senior veterans with a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit their war memorials at no cost to them
- Share their stories for the benefit of future generations
- Celebrate their homecoming, affirming their allegiance and service to our country”
The 100th flights were funded by the William H Davis & Dorothy M Davis & William C Davis Foundation.
The two planes, 100-1 and 100-2, were designated “Scarlet” and “Gray.” All five of the World War Two veterans were flying on Scarlet, an American Airlines plane. Southwest Airlines flew the Gray airliner.
There were 223 veterans in total scheduled to take the two flights. In addition to the five from WWII, there were 21 Korean War veterans and a Korean-Vietnam vet, plus 166 who served in Vietnam as well as 29 Cold War service members.
Miff Bender, a 93-year-old from Marion, served in the Army in World War II. He and his son Brian talked about Miff’s war experience with The Ohio Star. “Dad signed up when he was seventeen,” Brian said.
“I was in Okinawa,” Miff explained. “I worked in the air section of field artillery, spotter planes. And I was in the infantry.” He shared how one of his responsibilities was to set shells, to cut gun powder to determine the amount of explosive in the shell.
Bender also mentioned he was on the ground in Hiroshima after the bomb. “Nothing left but chimneys, that was about it. No people or anything,” he remembered.
The other World War II vets on Bender’s flight were 98-year-old Ethel Goss, Louis Reif, Frank Brock and Gene Woolsey.
The Ohio Star caught up with a Korean War Vet, Clenastine Hamilton. She was an Army typist stationed in Japan while her unit was deployed to Korea. Hamilton’s job was to interview soldiers fresh from the battlefield to determine if they qualified for a purple heart.
Later that night, people began filling John Glenn International Airport, waiting for the veterans to return. Jana Cook, her daughter Tracy White and grandson Jordan had made the trip to honor Charles “Chuck” Cook. Sitting with the family was Cook’s good friend Ron Brubaker, a Korean vet himself.
“Chuck served in the Army between the Korean War and Vietnam. He was stationed in Germany and worked in the Army Security Agency,” they told The Ohio Star. Brubaker had encouraged his friend to go on the Honor Flight. “I was on a flight three years ago,” he said. “Now I am serving with them.”
Media was also on hand, filming their return. “NOW: Veterans on the 100th Honor Flight Columbus arriving back at @columbusairport to an enormous crowd, loud cheers, thanks & handshakes from everyone here. @nbc4i.”
— Eric Halperin (@EricHalperinTV) October 20, 2019
Besides for the media, a band, hundreds of family members, friends and total strangers came to honor the men and women who had served their country.
Three women from the Plain City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution waited for Bernie Vance, an Army veteran who served in Korea. Janet Kaufman and Valerie Merideth were with their friend, Karen Vance, to welcome Bernie home.
The Ohio Star caught up with former Army nurse Clenastine Hamilton upon her return. When asked about the trip, Hamilton shared, “I had such a good time. I am so glad I went.”
Many of the veterans were struggling to hold back tears, especially those from Vietnam. They gladly shook hands and received hugs. One middle-aged white man, a veteran himself, reached across the barrier that was no longer succeeding at holding well-wishers back, and embraced an African-American Vietnam veteran who did begin to cry.
The vet replied, “I ain’t never seen anything like this!”
“Well welcome home to the return you should have had,” his new friend declared. (emphasis his)
When asked why the man embraced the stranger, he told The Ohio Star, “The Vietnam Vets were treated horribly, but especially the African American men. I just wanted to show him how much I appreciate what he did for this country. He deserves it.”
A bystander said, “This is what America looks like.”
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