The veterans’ memorials in Washington, D.C., were awesome, but the children made the biggest impression on Sidney Anderson of Milford.
“They’d hold out their hand and thank me,” Anderson, a Korean War veteran, recalled.
His daughter, Judy Cooper of Danville, said even the tourists were “super about shaking hands and making a fuss. It was amazing.”
Anderson, 87, was one of 110 veterans on the June 8 Honor Flight from Chicago to D.C. That group serves veterans living in the Chicago area. In Vermilion County, most veterans travel with the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight out ofSpringfield.
The day-long, cost-free trip gave veterans from World War II and Korean War a chance to visit the memorials. Anderson said he was on a waiting list for two years.
His daughter enjoyed the trip as much as he did.
“I felt like an imposter,” she said jokingly. “There were people greeting us everywhere. Everything was ‘thank you for your service, thank you for your service.'”
Memories of Korea
Anderson served as an Army private and rifleman in Korea in 1951 and ’52, and then served stateside until his discharge in January 1953. While overseas, he was in North Korea for a time during the winter, recalling it was terribly cold.
Anderson still carries a laminated newspaper clipping about him being awarded the combat infantryman badge for excellent performance of duty with the Seventh Infantry Division, 14th Regiment, when he was 22 years old. He also was awarded the Korean Service Ribbon with one campaign star.
He recalled being paid $65 a month for foxhole pay.
At the Korean War Memorial in D.C., Anderson said he was impressed with it, but mainly, he thought: “I’m glad I’m out of there!”
The veterans and their guardians left Midway Airport early on June 8; while waiting, they were treated to breakfast along with singing and dancing.
When they landed at Dulles International Airport, they were greeted by a water cannon salute.
First stop was Arlington National Cemetery, where they watched a performance by the Silent Drill Team Platoon. Afterwards, the Marines greeted all of the veterans and talked about the rifles they used.
Anderson especially enjoyed that, as he was a rifleman in Korea. He talked to the Marines about being left-handed and having to learn to shoot with his right hand.
Cooper said, “The time the soldiers spent with each veteran was so warm and genuine, you could tell they all really enjoyed it.”
From there, they went to the World War II memorial, where they saw an honor guard performance and had a group photo taken.
Seeing 110 veterans age 85 and older, sitting shoulder to shoulder and saluting the American flag was a touching sight to Cooper.
Other stops were the Korean War, Vietnam War and Lincoln memorials.
At the Korean memorial, a guide discussed the symbolism of the 19 statues representing the four branches of the military. On the wall, there appears to be 38 soldiers and 38 months, which represent the 38th parallel that separated North and South Korea.
Anderson was stationed at an outpost north of the 38th parallel.
The next stop, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, was probably Anderson’s favorite, along with his daughter. The highlight was seeing the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
“Just thinking of the amount of lives taken and in the end, saved by the action of that one plane,” Cooper said. “You couldn’t help but feel reverent in its presence.”
On the flight home, the veterans received packets of letters from relatives, government officials and school children as part of “mail call.”
A hero’s welcome
Arriving at Midway around 8:30 p.m., the veterans were greeted by an active military member and taken through a crowd of more than 1,000 people. A bagpipe band, motorcycle groups, school children and others showed up to say “thank you.”
Anderson said he would recommend the trip to others, noting how organized it was and how his every need was met. “They’ve got it down to a science,” he said.
Cooper said, “He had a phenomenal time. He enjoyed the kids coming up (and thanking him for his service).”
Participants in the trip received a medal, commemorative coin, special shirt and book, “Forgotten No More — The Korean War Veterans Memorial Story.”
After his discharge from the service, Anderson farmed for several years. He married Hazel in 1961, and they had two children. He also worked for the state of Illinois highway maintenance before retiring.
Anderson is a member of the American Legion in Hoopeston.
Honor Flight Chicago is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that receives no government funding or grants. It is able to honor veterans on these flights to D.C. due to donations, sponsorships, fundraising events, merchandise sales and support from businesses, individuals and organizations within the service area.
Also, because every veteran flies with a guardian escort — a volunteer who pays his or her own way — applications for future guardians also are being accepted. This may be any able-bodied person, 18-70 years old, except for veterans who have already been honored with a flight or a spouse/significant other of a veteran on a flight.
Learn more about the Chicago-area trips at www.honorflightchicago.org.
(c)2016 the Commercial-News (Danville, Ill.) at www.commercial-news.com
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