BARTON COUNTY — The winds of war periodically have swept the U.S. over the last 100 years. Many soldiers arrived back stateside with little fanfare and continued their lives the best way they knew how.
Those veterans are now being honored through the Honor Flights program to Washington D.C. where not only do they receive a whirlwind trip to the nation’s monuments, they also receive appreciation for their sacrifices and service.
During the trip to Washington, some of the sights they see are the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Jefferson Monument, Iwo Jima Memorial, the Smithsonian Air Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery.
Also, a prayer service was held for any veteran the soldier’s wanted to remember.
Three area veterans, “Red” Lowell Meier, Dan Byer and Walter “Lefty” Underwood appreciated and were moved by the experience on their recent Honor Flights trip in mid-June. All three served during the Korean War.
“Words cannot explain it,” said Byer. But, “the real heroes are the ones that didn’t make it back.”
Meier served in the Army from July 1952-53 in Korea. Underwood served in the Army in the 82nd Airborne from 1951-53 on standby at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Byer served in the Air Force from fall 1952-53.
The long delayed thanks from people stirred emotions the men thought were long gone.
“It’s something you never forget,” said Byer. “I did feel like it was a thank you. Lots of things brought tears to your eyes.”
Throughout the trip, the men were greeted by crowds of people and a motorcycle escort, thanking them for their service.
“The reception was wonderful,” said Meier.
He said when he stepped off the boat after service during the Korean War, things were done differently than today. There wasn’t a lot of appreciation expressed at that time.
The men didn’t feel their war service was anything special. “We were doing something we felt we had to do,” said Byer. “All the hardships were nothing compared to the guys that lost lives.”
Like other veterans of war are, they haven’t talked much about the war years.“You want to forget about it,” said Byer.
All of the men suggested that those eligible sign up for the experience, saying it was well organized and unforgettable. Each of the service members went with a guardian, a family member or volunteer who paid their own way.
The men travelled through the Kansas Honor Flight program out of Hutchinson and is of no cost to the veterans. Those eligible served during Dec. 7, 1941-Dec. 31, 1946; June 25, 1950-Jan. 31, 1955, and Feb. 28, 1961-May 7, 1975.