September 24, 2016 from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM Asheville, NC to Washington, DC
Posted: 18 October 2016
The time had finally arrived to honor those veterans who served in the Korean War (1950-54) and there was no better way to do this than to have them fly to Washington, DC on the Honor Flight and visit the memorial that is erected in their honor. This event required much planning and thanks to the diligent and sacrificial efforts of volunteer coordinator Lyn Lazar and her staff our Korean veterans of Jackson and Swain counties received the overdue recognition that they all deserve. It was at our regular monthly meeting on Monday night October 10, 2016, at the Post 104 Legion Hall in Sylva, that Lyn, Ernie Bumgarner, and Max Baxter all gave the legionnaires in attendance a vivid and exciting synopsis of their trip on the Honor Flight. Hence, I will do my utter best to recap most of the information that I absorbed during that very gratifying and honorable evening.
Starting out “early” on Saturday morning, September 24th, Lyn and her staff of volunteers began the momentous task of getting several of our local veterans on their way in the twilight hours of dawn. In a tandem operation of logistics, Andy Shaw Ford provided a vehicle that was capable of carrying everyone. Of course, for such an important event as this, Sheriff Chip Hall provided a Jackson County Sheriff car that blazed an unhindered trail to the Asheville Airport, and everyone arrived safely and in plenty of time to get organized before boarding the airplane. The airport was quite crowded with other Korean veterans from Western North Carolina and many “yellow-shirt” guardians who accompanied those needing assistance. Around 8:00 a.m., the American Airlines Honor Flight headed into the northern sky towards our nation’s capital.
Baxter Wood Bill Trapani Ernie Bumgarner Max Breedlove Photo, courtesy of Lyn Lazar (behind Ernie)
From the Asheville Airport, to Reagan International Airport, to the honored grounds of our nation’s military monuments, and the scared resting places of the unforgotten hero’s of democracy and freedom.
Enjoy the slide show!
After arriving at Reagan International Airport, our local veterans, many in their mid-to-late eighties, received a warm and hearty hero’s welcome from hundreds of the nation’s residents, city workers, government representatives, law enforcement members, and airport personnel. Thanks needs to be given to American Airlines for the “FREE” donation of their aircraft, during this commemoration of the 500th Honor Flight program. Moreover, the sacrifice that the flight crew personnel made to this event was greatly recognized, because each individual volunteered to work this flight on their day-off, so our veterans could experience a day of joy and celebration. The crowds at Reagan International Airport, consisted of local business, school children, high school bands, ROTC units, and representatives of every branch of our military service, as they lined up along hallways, walkways, sidewalks, and streets leading into the capital. This was their opportunity to salute these brave men and women who helped bring freedom to the nation of Korea, some sixty-two years ago. In addition, many veterans from the Washington, DC along with the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group were in attendance to offer their support to our Korean War brothers and sisters.
From Regan International, the buses headed towards the grandeur of the day and the pathway through our nation’s capital was an arduous one for some of our veterans. As Ernie and Baxter had mentioned to us that Monday night at the Legion Hall, they had to walk miles of sideways, while many pushed wheelchairs, and they climb mountains of stairs to see the various memorials that lined the streets of the capital. The site for the day was definitely the Korean Memorial, yet other various memorials such as the WW II Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery were also cheerful and tearful places to reminisce. It is honest to say that these Korean War veterans received a full-day of the honor they have long deserved and thanks to these men and women, of every branch of service, South Korea still thrives as a nation of “freedom and democracy” today. The day ended with our veterans returning to the Asheville Airport at approximately 8:30 p.m. where they were greeted by crowds of fellow American Legionaries, many Patriot Guard Riders, political dignitaries, law enforcement, and multitudes of well-wishers. It was a long day for all of those involved and it was quite enjoyable for everyone, however, many seemed glad to be back in the mountains and heading home for some much deserved rest.
In closing, it is reasonable to say that every legion member in the hall that Monday night was deeply moved as we listened to these “comrades-in-arms” describe their humbling and eventful trip. The enormous amount of time, money, energy, and logistics in this undertaking of making another veteran’s memory of war seem much better was a monumental undertaking. Lyn Lazar and her staff, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Andy Shaw Ford, and many others deserve our thanks for their dedication to making this trip a success. Thanks also to the countless civilians and military personnel who lined the entire pathway from Asheville to the Korean Memorial and back again with love for these surviving members of a war forgotten by many. Finally, let us not forget the sacrificial “yellow-shirt” guardians who made this trip on their own dime and their own time, that others would be able to experience such an honorable day, hence the name “Honor Flight.”
Respectfully with gratitude for your service to God, Family, and Country,
David Zachary, Legion webmaster and former 1SG, USA, USAR.
Please enjoy this event with our Korean War veterans, Bill, Max, Baxter, and Ernie as you travel with them to a place of honor, dignity, and duty.