Local vets get VIP treatment on Honor Flight
Wilbur Martin turned down an Honor Flight a few years ago.
When the opportunity rolled around again Wednesday, his family persuaded him to go.
“I’m so glad I went,” Martin said. “It was absolutely fantastic. Beyond description.”
Martin, 91, of Somonauk spent more than three years with the Army Infantry during World Ward II and was wounded while serving in Germany. He was one of 95 veterans invited to take the Honor Flight Chicago, which included DeKalb resident Hallie Hamilton, 88.
Hamilton spent about half of his three years overseas serving in Italy during World War II. He and Martin spent the day in Washington, D.C., where the highlight of the trip was a visit to the World War II Memorial.
Each place they stopped, a group of veterans in that area would join the tour and volunteers kept showing up to lend a hand, Hamilton said. He said the Honor Flight was very well organized.
“I guess it’s a high honor” to be asked to take an Honor Flight, Hamilton said. “All I had to do was serve.”
Martin said Honor Flight veterans were met at different locations by two or three bands and an honor guard. A motorcycle group also carried flags. He said everyone he met was so nice that it was overwhelming.
The most memorable part of the trip was “just the fact that some people put themselves out there to produce this program,” Martin said.
Hamilton’s son-in-law and Martin’s son were guardians on the Honor Flight. Guardians volunteer to assist veterans on the trip.
Honor Flight Chicago has flown almost 3,000 Chicago-area veterans to Washington, D.C., through the program. Although the itinerary varies, the trip usually includes a trip to the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, the Lincoln Memorial or the Korean and Vietnam memorials, according to the Honor Flight Chicago website.
According to the site, 1,000 World War II veterans die each day in the U.S.
The day started early for Martin and Hamilton, who had to catch a plane out of Midway Airport around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. They didn’t return to Chicago until 9 p.m. the same night.
It was the warm welcome that struck Hamilton the most. Veterans were greeted with cards, and soldiers and family members were at the airport to meet them.
“Everyone wanted to shake hands,” Hamilton said. “I felt like I was campaigning for a while.”
Martin said just before veterans got off the plane, they had a mail call where everyone on the flight was given an envelope filled with letters. Martin said some of the letters were from friends and family members, others were from Boy Scout troops.
“I still haven’t had a chance to go through them all,” he said Thursday.
Hamilton said for a lot of World War II veterans, military service is the biggest thing that happened in their lives. When World Ward II soldiers returned from overseas, not many people paid attention, he said.
Those who served during Vietnam were generally treated very poorly when they returned, but he believes the perception of military service has changed.
“I guess the government felt responsible for changing that,” he said. “I think they realize what people go through.”
If you have any technical difficulties, either with your username and password or with the payment options, please contact us by e-mail at email@example.com