By Jeremy Wise, Army Flier staffApril 22, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- WO1 Scott Parker, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, has heard war stories from great-uncles and his father ever since he first deployed in 2004.
He understands the bonds men and women form when under enemy attack. He also understands the pain of loss and the long hours Soldiers endure in combat.
That is why he was proud to welcome home World War II veterans when they returned to Dothan Regional Airport April 17 after the third Wiregrass Honor Flight.
Honor flights transport area WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., giving the former servicemembers a chance to visit the World War II Memorial and witness a changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery at no cost.
During the flight, many veterans recounted war stories and shared similar experiences, something Parker said he was glad he could support.
"You hear of people forming bonds in college. That bond is a totally different relationship in deployment," he said. "I'm glad they get to (visit the memorial)."
Parker, a recipient of two Purple Hearts, said WWII veterans endured many more hardships than Soldiers today, especially in sheer number of combat losses. Dothan's John Little, a WWII veteran who was on one of last year's honor flights and attended Saturday's reception, said one star in the Field of Stars represents 100 deaths. According to the monument's Web site, www.wwiimemorial.com, 4,000 stars rest at the monument.
Their stories are important, especially as the number of people left from that generation dwindles each day, Parker said.
"So much history dies with them," he said. "A lot of their stories, they don't tell you, (but) not because they (don't want to). It's just you wouldn't understand."
But for one day, area veterans like Ozark's Suzy Harris, a second lieutenant nurse during the war, recalled their experiences amongst peers and their "guardians," or chaperones.
"They're just great stories," she said.
Retired dentist Dr. Jim Vann shared the journey with Family member Lee Bryan, and he noted the storytelling made everyone seem like they were relatives.
Harris also said she enjoyed finding others who served where she did - Okinawa, Japan - and the entire trip, in general.
"Being there was a different experience. I took pictures of everything," she said. "The cherry blossoms ... were so beautiful. It was wonderful."
Even though the veterans soaked in the sights of the memorial, Vann said many enjoyed the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery the most.
"For everyone in the military, it was sentimental," he said.
To hear experiences like these and to pay his respect are why Parker said he will attend the last Wiregrass Honor Flight, which occurs April 24 at the Dothan Regional Airport.