Honor Flight Struggles To Honor Veterans While There is Still Time

| March 9, 2013

Honor Flight flies WWII veterans to view the monument created to honor their service while there is still time

Honor Flight Veterans at airportHonor Flight Southern Arizona is fighting time in their quest to fly local WWII veterans to Washington DC to visit the memorial erected to honor their service and sacrifice. World War II veterans are among our most aged population, and they are dying off quickly. Honor Flight has 6 flights scheduled this year but needs more funding and more volunteers to accompany these aging warriors on what could be their last chance to be remembered for their bravery.

Honor Flight Southern Arizona is one of the organizations I endorse in part because of the selfless hard work and extraordinary dedication on the part of the volunteers that run every aspect of the operation. Today I want to share a story from their newsletter, a profile of veteran Donald R Moore, written by Thom Mansur.

Our Honor Flight veterans often come with us to our speaking engagements because, as they say, “they are their own best salesmen.” Last month, we took Donald Moore with us to meet with a group of  local veterans. Don was on our October flight – the one with his Purple Heart pinned to his cap. Don’s application indicated he was in the Army, but under “Activity during the War” he simply wrote Infantry Combat.” Probably just the typical modesty we see in so many of our veterans.

I had called Don the night before to ask those questions. He said he was in the 32nd Division, 127th Regiment, and that he was in the Philippines and New Guinea during the war. I found the 32nd online – the Red Arrow Division – and spent hours looking at photos and maps and reading about the New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon campaigns. In the end, I had printed every map, photo and campaign description   could find – covering anything he might have seen or done. I could hardly sleep, in anticipation of meeting someone who served in the 32nd – kind of like meeting Wyatt Earp for breakfast.

As we drove up to his house, I could see him standing alone on the porch. He was a big man wearing a black leather jacket. After a few hellos, we were on our way. On the drive over, Don told us that he had moved to Tucson in 1926 when he was only six months old. He grew up here. He went to Tucson High School and was drafted in August 1944 at the age of 17.

We got there a little early, and I had a chance to sit down with him. He told me he had been wounded while on patrol in northern Luzon. We looked over the stuff I brought – photos of the landings at Saidor and Aitape, a map showing the forces along Highway 2 in Leyte, and photos of the Villa Verde Trail in Luzon. I showed him the photo of General Yamashita walking out of the mountains to surrender to the 32nd in September of 1945. The Red Arrow Division had so many accomplishments.

In introducing Don to the veterans group, I used the same words he had written on his application: “Infantry Combat” – an understatement to the heroics I learned in reading about the 32nd. Then I gave him the microphone. He told the group he was honored to be there with them. He talked a little about Honor Flight and his trip to see the memorial, but most of all he emphasized that we need to be “thankful for every day.” It felt as if the meaning behind those words stretched all the way back to the Philippines – to the jungles and the mountains of Leyte and Luzon, all the way back to 1944.

Honor Flight needs your support, both time and money. Each flight is accompanied by Guardians, who ensure that the veterans are safe and supported in every aspect of the trip. Sponsors are needed for financial and fund-raising support. Even teachers can involve their classes in support and learning projects.

Honor Flight Southern Arizona website
Honor Flight Southern Arizona Facebook

 

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Category: News & Advocacy, Nonprofit Focus

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