America’s veterans are to be cherished and honored for the time and sacrifices they have made in all our names. Whatever branch of the military, whatever job they performed, their service has made all our freedoms possible. Recognizing these special men and women has become the focus of a group called Honor Flight.
Recently, Clenton Walker, an 88-year-old World War II veteran and uncle of longtime LaBelle resident Dr. Randy Parrish, took his seat on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to remember the times, the people and the events that shaped his life 73 years ago.
A US Army Air Corps veteran, Mr. Walker served in the Pacific Theater and in Japan during what was arguably the turning point of the 20th Century. It was also, certainly, a turning point in his personal life. He was escorted by his nephew on the trip of a lifetime – a trip to revisit old memories and to make new ones. The one-day trip was filled to capacity with the many monuments dedicated to our nation’s veterans and other amazing sights. Senator Bob Dole, himself a decorated World War II veteran, greeted his spiritual comrades there, underscoring his appreciation for their service, their shared values and experiences.
Dr. Parrish said the opportunity came to light when he escorted his uncle to a Veterans Day celebration in Estero, where a woman introduced them to the idea of an Honor Flight. Both the Naples Honor Flight Chapter and the Port Charlotte Chapter provide the service for veterans and the Port Charlotte Chapter approved Mr. Walker’s application.
Dr. Parrish said his uncle greatly appreciates the way the organization took care of everything for the veterans, at no cost to the honorees, and the dedication of all the volunteers.
Mr. Walker thoroughly enjoyed this unique and powerfully emotional day. He was especially affected by the Welcome Home event at RSW airport on his return. “It was almost like a parade,” Dr. Parrish said with so many people, young and old, on hand to greet their heroes.
These one-day Washington Honor Flights began when a physician’s assistant, veteran and private pilot named Earl Morse organized other pilots to provide a trip for aging veterans to experience “their” newly-dedicated World War II Monument in Washington, D.C.
Over the years, many WWII vets have been gifted with the experience and in the past few years the program has expanded to include all American military veterans.
On this Memorial Day and every day, Thank you and Welcome Home.