By Ang Gilchrist
Fourteen area veterans were given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Washington, D.C. earlier this month. The trip was part of the “Honor Flight” program, developed to honor all veterans by inviting them on an all-expenses paid trip to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices. Each veteran was allowed to have a guardian travel with them to assist them with their daily needs, however the guardians were responsible for their own meals and expenses, excluding the cost of the flight.
Gordon resident Gordon Greenamyre said this was, “probably my first and only trip to D.C.,” as he turns 85 years old on October 3. His guardian was his son, Gregg, of Gordon. The veterans and their guardians met and received a grand send off in Hay Springs that included a short program and an escort from the Patriot Guard (motorcycles) and Sheriff Departments from each county as they made their way towards Denver. Greenamyre choked up as he recollected passing through Alliance and seeing all of the people lined up along the road waving American flags in their honor. The group was served lunch at the Scottsbluff Elks Lodge before continuing their drive to Denver.
Greenamyre said the veterans were recognized and treated like royalty at the Denver International Airport, receiving special assistance and appreciation. Hearing that the guardians were responsible for their own meal costs, a complete stranger stepped up and paid for all of their meals while in Denver. They were also greeted and recognized as veterans as they stepped off the plane in Washington, D.C.
While in D.C., the veterans toured the World War II Memorial, Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean Memorials, and the Women’s and Navy monuments. They also saw the Arlington National Cemetery, where the group witnessed the prestigious ‘changing of the guard’.
It was raining by the time the veterans went to see the Air Force Monument and Iwo Jima, so they just viewed them as they drove by, something Greenamyre regretted, stating, “I wish I would have got out in the rain and just touched it (Iwo Jima).” The group also traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue, catching a glimpse of The White House.
One thing Greenamyre said he won’t ever miss about Washington, D.C. is the traffic, saying that it took them over an hour to drive to eat at the Golden Corral. His favorite part of the trip was seeing the life-sized statues of the soldiers posed in various stances with their weapons. That brought back a lot of memories to all of the veterans on the tour.
“I appreciate the opportunity that I got to go, and thank everyone responsible for getting us there and back,” said Greenamyre.
This was the second Honor Flight offered this year for the Dawes, Box Butte and Sheridan County veterans, due to the amazing generosity of local businesses and individuals. It is the goal of the program that every veteran that served stateside or overseas is given the opportunity to complete the trip. Statistics from 2011 show that the United States is losing around 900 World War II veterans per day, and the program tries to concentrate on the aging and terminally ill veterans. The Honor Flight plans on continuing for years to come, serving all veterans including the Korean War, Vietnam War and the most recent wars.
Those veterans participating in the Honor Flight included:
Hay Springs: Don Peters, Navy seaman; Archie Cerny, Army Air Force, radio repairman; William Hindman, Army Private First Class; James Ehrman, Army 25th Infantry; and Everett Rincker, Armored infantry.
Gordon: Wayne Cunningham, Army Private First Class; and Gordon Greenamyre, Army Staff Sergeant.
Rushville: Gunnar Riis, Army Master Sergeant; Lyle Sones, Navy troop transport ship; and Mildred Reeves, Army Nurse Corp., First Lieutenant. Veterans Gary and Roxie Sones, Rushville, both served as guardians on the trip.
Chadron: Lowell Muenchau, Army Infantry T4; Geneva Murer, Navy Storekeeper/supply/discharge; and Clyde “Andy” Anderson, Marines.
Scottsbluff: Marion Humphrey, Army Private First Class.
By Ang Gilchrist