By Carrie E. David (SMDC/ARSTRAT)May 6, 2014
FORT MEADE, Md. -- With most of America's World War II and Korean War veterans now in their late 70s to mid-80s, many of them are unable to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C., without a little help from friends.
Three of those friends from Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion, offered their services to escort veterans from Columbus, Ohio, who arrived by the Honor Flight Network at the Baltimore-Washington Airport on April 26.
Spc. Matthew Hudson, Spc. Joshua Huffman, and Spc. Corbin Geurts, all satellite controllers with Co. B, escorted Don Hall, Korean War; Dick Moorehead, Korean War; and Ray Fornadley, World War II, during their visit to the memorials.
"It's an honor to be able to escort these veterans to their memorials and to hear their stories of the wars they fought in," Hudson said. "They are amazing men and women."
When the World War II memorial was completed in 2004, the veterans from that war were already in their mid-70s and many were unable to make the trip to Washington, D.C., to see it. That is when retired Air Force Capt. Earl Morse decided to establish the Honor Flight Network.
According to the Honor Flight Network website, "In December of 2004, Earl asked one of his World War II veteran patients if it would be all right if Earl personally flew him out to D.C., free of charge, to visit his memorial. Mr. Loy broke down and cried. He told Earl that at his age he would probably never get to see his memorial otherwise, and graciously accepted the offer."
Since then, thousands of veterans have made the journey to see their memorial. According to the Honor Flight Network website, through the end of 2012, they transported more than 98,500 veterans to Washington, D.C. The program currently has 12 hubs in 41 states.
"It was interesting to see my veteran's reaction to the memorial," Huffman said. "He was really taken aback by the detail of the Korean War memorial."
All three Co. B Soldiers said they enjoyed hearing the stories of the veterans.
"It's always fun to learn the stories directly from the Soldiers who were there," Geurts said. "My veteran personally knew the pilot of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima."
According to the 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs report, 8.6 percent of living veterans served in World War II and 10.9 percent served in the Korean War. It is estimated that about 1,000 veterans from this generation die each day, and that by 2020, nearly all World War II veterans will be gone and by 2035, few Korean War veterans will be left.
"Honor Flight is great opportunity for our Soldiers to interact with and give thanks to their military predecessors," said Capt. Michelle Hamilton, Co. B commander. "To have the opportunity to escort them during their day trip to Washington, D.C., and see their reaction to the memorials built for them is an honor that I hope all of our Soldiers get to experience."