A local citizen and his wife recently got to take part in the Honor Flight earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
Jimmie L. (Shorty), a World War II veteran and wife Leola flew north for the Honor Flight, which toko place on Oct. 5, 2011.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., they took off from Amarillo’s Rick Husband airport for their first step on the way to Washington, D.C.
“We had to change planes at Birmingham, Ala., but as we landed there, we received a water salute from their airport fire truck,” Leola said. “After a short layover, we were on our way to Baltimore Washington International Airport where they gave us another water salute.”
When they arrived at the airport, they board their motorcoach and met their tour guide Linda Mason, who would be their guide for the next three days. They boarded their bus for a one-hour trip to Washington and our first memorial, which was for the World War II European & Pacific Theatres.
“I have not mentioned that there were 54 of us in this group, including our director Jack Barnes and other volunteers who helped with baggages, snack, and you name it, tasks to be done,” Leola said.
They had with them Sgt. 1st Class Mike Colon-Mateo (in full dress uniform), who lined up the veterans and marched them up to each memorial in the presentation of the wreaths. They arrived at the World War II memorial and the veterans were lined up and marched to the European side of the memorial and presented the wreath.
Then, they marched to the Pacific side and placed the wreath there. Senator John Cornyn came for this wreath laying. They all had time there to enjoy the memorial, and after that, they went to dinner.
“After dinner, we went to the United States Air Force Memorial and our veterans presented a wreath there,” Leola said. “It was impressive at night! After this, we went to the hotel. We were all pretty tired after this long day, but a great one!”
They left their hotel at 8 a.m. the following day for the Lincoln Memorial, then to the Korean War Veterans Memorial for a wreath laying. From there, they went to the Vietnam Veterans memorial and placed another wreath.
“At each of these, we had time to really look them over and enjoy and take pictures,” Leola said.
They went to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and walked through it. While traveling around to the different memorials, she said their tour guide was telling us about all of the surrounding places of interest, and they really enjoyed having her for a guide.
Their next stop was the Arlington National Cemetery, where they changed from a bus to a tour mobile tram. They stopped at JFK’s gravesite, then onto to the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which Leola described as being very impressive.
“After watching this for awhile, our veterans lined up again and presented our wreath,” she said. “This was very touching.”
After this, they went by the Arlington house, Robert E. Lee Memorial, and then back to the visitor center.
The Marine War Memorial was the next place for the veterans to place their Panhandle memorial wreath, and then it was on to the United States Navy Memorial for wreath laying and visiting the Naval Heritage Museum for short films and exhibits. After this, they ate a buffet dinner and went back to the hotel after what Leola described as another great day.
They then packed up and checked out of their hotel to head to the U.S. Capitol. They were checked at the Capitol police checkpoint and then escorted to Independence Avenue between Longworth House Office Building and the Capitol. Congressman Mac Thornberry met the bus and they entered through the south door.
“We were individually screened, then our congressman took us to the House of Representatives where he talked to us about this room and all that goes on and how, it was interesting,” Leola said.
They were taken to the Statuary Hall and the Rotunda, and had time to enjoy and take pictures.
There was a little time left to tour some of the places they might have missed, and then headed for their airport. They stopped in Denver, Colo., but didn’t have to change planes.
“Coming from Denver, we were flying above the clouds and it was also lightning, so I was sure Amarillo was getting rain,” Leola said. “No such luck!”
When they arrived in Amarillo, Sgt. Mike told the veterans they were going to line up one last time.
“They marched into both waiting rooms and the visitor’s waiting room was filled with FLAGS, Cub Scouts, and a lot of well-wishers...what a welcome home!” she said.
Leola said she and her husband want to thank Jack Barnes and all of his team for working so hard to make the Honor Flight one they will not forget. They are also grateful for all of the community support they have received.
“Thank you to all of our friends who made this trip possible for Shorty and I,” she said. “We will not forget this trip!”