EUGENE, Ore. — The South Willamette Valley Honor Flight returned to Oregon late Sunday night after three busy days to and from Washington D.C.
59 local veterans experienced the trip of a lifetime.
“This whole trip we’ve been on has just been amazing to me,” said veteran Dale Anderson.
The veterans returned after a proper welcome home.
“I had the best time of my life,” said Michelle Turner.
It was a time to reflect and confide.
“It brought back some memories,” said Gary Covert.
“One of the kids that I grew up with was killed in Vietnam,” recalled Ken Radford.
It was also a time to tell stories.
“We were sitting at the table at dinner last night, and for some reason I wound up being the oldest person at the table, and I’m still pulling stories out of them,” said Dick Tooley.
And that’s who these veterans are.
“We’re all brothers. We’ve been there. We’ve done that,” said Bob Wood.
Each with a story to tell.
Wood was stationed in Alaska for 18 months.
Paul Thompson was in Ethiopia
“I was in a very technical arm of the military.”
Five female veterans had stories of their own and were recognized at the Military Women’s Memorial.
There were five dozen veterans from Oregon in total, each with memories and experiences.
“I watched three of them,” recalled Covert. “They were on an aircraft that didn’t get in the air off the ship.”
Covert had gotten rubbings of their names before but lost them when he lost his house in the Paradise, Calif. Fire. But that’s another story.
“The one image that comes to my mind when I’m processing that is the 4,000 Gold Stars that were on the wall of the WWII Museum, each star representing 100 deaths,” said Thompson.
“I’m curious about every single name,” said Turner. “Who was Ronald Sharar? What was he about? Who was responsible for him? Who was his lieutenant? I’m feeling like, what I want to know is where everybody came from, who were their moms and dads. Really, every single one of these names is a human being. We’re not just names on the wall. They’re humans.”
And that humanity is what makes the Honor Flight so special.
“I will tell you that I’m going back to Eugene with kind of a different attitude about the service of other people - and my own, for that matter,” said Thompson.
Each one of these veterans has an incredible story - lives lived, lives lost, and stories told.