In honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, enjoy this Kentucky Life episode from last May, where we follow World War II veterans as they board a flight honoring their service to our nation and visit Washington, D.C.
World War II Honor Flight
Honor Flight is an organization that flies veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to Washington, D.C., where they visit the national memorials and other landmarks. In 2018, on the anniversary of D-Day, the Bluegrass chapter of Honor Flight hosted a special trip just for veterans of WWII.
The flight with a group of 62 veterans from around the region embarked from Louisville’s airport on June 6, 2018. Upon reaching D.C., their first stop was the World War II Memorial.
“You see all kinds of emotions,” says Jeff Thoke, Chairman of the Board of the Bluegrass Chapter of Honor Flight. “This Honor Flight is about them, the WWII veterans who are there, but they think about those that just didn’t come back.”
“It just touches you hard,” says U.S. Army veteran Glenn A. Fisher. “I’ll tell you, it’s a wonderful thing to see but yet it’s really heart-wrenching just to think of the ones that paid the supreme sacrifice.”
The veterans visited many of the traditional tourist sites around the nation’s capital, but they also paid tribute to their fellow veterans, visiting the Korea and Vietnam memorials.
“Even though they’re totally different wars if you talk to them all, the way they’re fought and so forth, there is a bond among all the veterans that you sense when you’re with them at the various memorials,” says Thoke.
Ernest Micka, a World War II Army veteran from Jefferson County, confirms this.
“I knew that they were thinking about somebody of theirs that didn’t come back,” says Micka, referring to the veterans visiting the Korea and Vietnam memorials. “And then I knew how they were feeling at the time. Because I left quite a few buddies there myself, and it gets to you.”
The final D.C. stop for the veterans is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.
“It just touches you, I’ll guarantee you that,” says Fisher. “It certainly touched me, and I’m a soldier from the old school. But you know, we’ve all got feelings and it just takes things like that to just really unnerve you.”
When the group returned to Kentucky, there was a surprise waiting for them at the Louisville Airport. Their family members and others from the community gathered together to greet and thank the veterans.
Kelli Oakley, Secretary of the Board for the Bluegrass Chapter of Honor Flight, explains why it’s so rewarding to be a part of the organization that facilitates these flights.
“It’s an honor to be part of it,” she says. “We feel like we are changing lives. We keep hearing that it’s the best day of the veterans’ lives. It’s a great thing.”