Lt. Col. Charles R. Patton in 1940sMAY 17, THE KICKOFF: DID NOT EXPECT ANYONE TO SEE US OFF AT 7.45 AM, BUT THERE THEY WERE, 200 SUN CITY-ANS SHAKING OUR HANDS, TAKING OUR PICTURES, AND THIS WAS THE FINEST SENDOFF I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.

THE ARRIVAL : PROBABLY THE HIGHLIGHT OF THIS HONOR FLIGHT. PEOPLE LINED UP, MANY OF SCHOOL AGE, ON BOTH SIDES OF THE EXIT LANE AS WE PASSED THROUGH IN WHEELCHAIRS, PUSHED BY VOLUNTEERS WHO WERE TERMED ‘GUARDIANS’. THE WASHINGTONIANS CLAPPED, TRIED TO SHAKE HANDS, SAID ‘THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE,’ AND MADE US FEEL THAT THOSE YEARS WE SPENT IN UNIFORM DURING WW II WERE RECOGNIZED. THE LINE EXTENDED INTO THE TERMINAL, AND MADE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US FEEL WELCOME TO THIS CITY.

THE DINNER: BY COINCIDENCE, I SAT NEXT TO THE 107 YEAR OLD VETERAN WHO IS LIKELY THE OLDEST ALIVE FROM WW II. WE DID NOT HAVE TIME TO TALK MUCH BECAUSE REPORTERS KEPT COMING UP TO INTERVIEW HIM, PHOTOGRAPH HIM, AND I FELT THE POOR GUY NEEDED TIME TO EAT. NO SPEECHES, A SPECTACULAR MEAL. WE WERE NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE OUR ROOM UNLESS PUSHED INA WHEELCHAIR BY OUR GUARDIAN!

MAY 18: BEGAN WITH A LOUD TELEPHONE RING AT 5.20 AM LOCAL TIME, 4.20 TEXAS TIME…

WWII MEMORIAL: THE MAIN REASON OF OUR TRIP. SINCE IT IS NEW, ONLY ONE HAD SEEN IT. NO ONE CAN SAY IT IS NOT IMPRESSIVE, AND ITS LOCATION, ABOUT HALFWAY BETWEEN THE CAPITOL AND THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, GIVES IT A COMMANDING PRESENCE.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL: HAD LAST BEEN THERE WHEN WE TOOK OUR KIDS TO SEE IT. DID NOT KNOW THAT THE DESIGNER PLACED HIS FACE ON THE BACK OF THE FAMOUS LINCOLN STATUE. THIS IS HARD TO SEE, BUT THE REPORT WAS CORRECT.

KOREAN MEMORIAL: A VERY DIFFERENT LAYOUT. BRONZE STATUES OF SOLDIERS IN COMBAT IN A SMALL FIELD, AND THEN SHOTS OF OTHERS SOMEHOW IMPRESSED ONTO A MARBLE WALL ALL
ALONG THE EAST END OF THE MEMORIAL.

VIETNAM MEMORIAL: THIS IS THE ORIGINAL FROM WHICH THE COPY WAS ERECTED FOR THE MARINE ACADEMY IN HARLINGEN, WHICH I HAD SEEN MANY TIMES.

Re-enacting flag at Iwo JimaIWO JIMA MEMORIAL: BY THIS TIME, IT WAS RAINING AND WE WERE GIVEN THE OPTION OF STAYING ON THE BUS, WHICH I DID. MORE IMPRESSIVE WAS THE FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM ONE OF OUR GROUP WHO LANDED WITH THE MARINES ON THIS ISLAND, AND ADMITTED HE WAS REALLY SCARED BECAUSE OF THE HEAVY JAPANESE SHELLING.

NAVY MEMORIAL: IN DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON, A SQUARE WITH SEVERAL REPRODUCTIONS UNIQUE TO THE NAVY.

AIR FORCE MEMORIAL: THREE GIANT WINGS EXTENDING AND SPREADING OUT INTO THE SKY. WHO CANNOT BE IMPRESSED BY THIS?

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY: WE WITNESSED THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD, DESPITE RAIN, IN COMPLETE SILENCE FROM THE WATCHERS, AND IT WAS EVERY BIT AS MOVING AS WE WERE LED TO BELIEVE IT WOULD BE. IN ALL DIRECTIONS THERE ARE GRAVES, THE BIGGEST CEMETERY I HAVE EVER SEEN.

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END: BACK ON OUR PLANE AND SORRY THAT THE WHOLE TRIP WAS ENDING SO SOON. BUT THEN SUDDENLY A BIG SURPRISE: WE WERE REMINDED THAT BACK IN THE 1940s, A HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY WAS “MAIL CALL.” SO WE HAD THIS AGAIN, RIGHT THERE IN THE PLANE. I THOUGHT THAT I KNEW NO ONE WHO WOULD BE WRITING ME, BUT WAS THEN HANDED A BIG ENVELOPE WITH LETTERS FROM POOL FRIENDS, RELATIVES, EVEN A BUNCH FROM GRADE SCHOOL KIDS AT AN OUTLYING PLACE OF LEARNING WHO WROTE VETERANS AS A CLASS PROJECT. THIS BRIGHTENED UP OUR ANTI-CLIMAX PLANE TRIP, KEPT US BUSY FOR AN HOUR, AND WILL GO DOWN AS MY SECOND BEST HIGHLIGHT OF THIS HONOR FLIGHT FOR WW II VETERANS. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO TOOK THE TIME TO WRITE ME, MANY, MANY THANKS.