One Shelton resident returned from the free “trip of a lifetime” designed for veterans and is now advising all other veterans to jump at the opportunity to experience it for themselves.
WWII veteran and Shelton resident George Ward, 90, said he was reading a newspaper several months ago when he came across an article that said there was a non-profit organization looking to fly out veterans to visit a variety of famous memorials for a weekend at no cost.
He called the number listed in the article and was ultimately sent an application in the mail that arrived several weeks later. After submitting his application, Ward was contacted by the organization, called “Honor Flight,” and was told that WWII veterans were “first preference.”
Ward was told that his service qualified him to be a part of the next trip to D.C. along with 67 other veterans from all over the country in June.
‘Trip of a lifetime’ well deserved
Ward said enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1944 was a no brainer for him because if he waited to be drafted he wouldn’t have had the choice of becoming an airplane mechanic.
“If I had waited until October to be drafted I would’ve been in the Battle of the Bulge,” said Ward. “Plus, my father was in WWI so from the time we were young he told us, ‘You’re going to have to serve,’ so it wasn’t as big of a deal.”
Ward was called into service when he was 18 years old, in February of 1945, and was shipped over to Germany where he worked on B-17’s each day until December of that year.
“The war was still going on but the work wasn’t bad,” said Ward. “Each morning we would begin our days at 7 a.m. by pre-flighting the planes and then the mechanics were free until about 2 or 3 p.m. when the planes would return.”
When the pilots returned the planes, Ward said the mechanics’ job was to put oil and gas into each of them to prepare them for the following day of flying.
A site to see, also a bonding experience
One of the stipulations that Honor Flight made clear was that each veteran must have someone to accompany them at all times.
Ward’s daughter Barbara jumped at the opportunity to support her dad and also wheel him around. She flew out to D.C. from Maine, where she lives, to accompany her dad and help create memories he and she most likely would never forget.
“It was an overall wonderful experience,” said Ward.
While looking at one of the Vietnam memorials, Ward said he was shocked at the amount of soldiers whose names were listed.
“I didn’t even realize we had that many soldiers in Vietnam,” said Ward.
Aside from posing for tons of pictures in front of the WWII and Lincoln memorials, both Ward and his daughter had the chance to interact with nearly 70 other veterans and their families.
Despite the number of veterans in the same area, Ward said they didn’t spend any time talking to each other about their experiences or their service.
Nonetheless, Ward said an estimated 500 people surrounded the several buses carrying the veterans and their families once they arrived at one of the meeting sites in D.C.
Ward said he recommends all veterans look into the application process for this opportunity. The application can be found online at https://www.honorflight.org/veteran-application/.
The entire crew for the service is volunteer, including the pilot and flight staff.