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Honor Flight 2018: 'It's going to be a tear jerker'

Thanks to the South Willamette Valley Honor Flight Program, Bill is headed for his first trip to Washington, D.C. "I want to see the Vietnam memorial," he said. "I want to see the World War II memorial." (SBG)

David Walker and photographer Loren Ruark are with the Honor Flight from Oregon, en route to Washington, D.C.

Bill Justham almost ran out fingers as he counted how many people in his family have served in the military.

"My brother was in the Army," Bill recalled. "My uncle Joe, my Uncle Bob and my Uncle Sy all served during the war, as well as my dad."

So on the day of his 17th birthday, Bill joined the Navy.

"I was always going to join the Navy," he said, "because my dad served."

A helicopter rescue crewman, Bill was stationed for 3 years in Japan.

"While I was there I picked up a letter from the emperor of Japan in appreciation for our services," Bill said. "Japan Airlines had an aircraft crash into Tokyo Bay, and we flew all night picking up survivors. Well, there were no survivors."

The heavy action for Bill came in Vietnam.

"To actually be in country, yeah we took fire on our helicopter," he said.

When a pilot crashed his helicopter in the middle of a rice paddy in Japan, Bill and two others changed the engine in that helicopter in just 3 days - and they were not allowed to step in the rice paddy.

"They flew the engine in," he said, "and they flew the old engine out."

Now thanks to the South Willamette Valley Honor Flight Program, Bill is headed for his first trip to Washington, D.C.

"I want to see the Vietnam memorial," he said. "I want to see the World War II memorial."

He doesn't have any expectations, but knows one thing for sure.

"It's going to be a tear jerker," he said.

Why those two memorials in particular?

Vietan, becasue he served in the conflict.

And World War II, because of the man he still reveres.

"Because my dad served," Bill said. "He was there. He lived it. He didn't talk much about it, so I just want to see it."

HONOR OUR VETERANS | Recognize the veterans in your life #LiveOnKVAL news

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