WILMINGTON — After their weekend flight to the nation’s capital via Honor Flight, the local veterans who participated in it got an experience they’ll never forget as they toured the landmarks and felt an overall sense of pride.
Paul Butler, 66, of Wilmington, was a committee member who helped plan the trip, but even he was surprised by what the experience held.
“It was a lot more than I had imagined,” said Butler. “Knowing about it ahead of time doesn’t prepare you for it.”
One of the major highlights for Butler was a ceremony involving him and his father’s burial flag.
His father, Willis Butler, who was a radio operator on bomber planes during World War II, had his flag used for a special ceremony at the United States Air Force Memorial which paid tribute to all veterans of all wars. The flag was taken to a panel at the Memorial by Butler and his escort, Andrew Andorfer, where a wheelchair was.
The flag was then placed on the chair, Butler backed up and saluted, and a staff member stated that the flag was in tribute to all veterans of all wars which was followed by a playing of Taps.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Butler.
Another participant and fellow Vietnam veteran, Jim Cook, 73, of Blanchester, also got quite an experience that he won’t soon forget. From the escort, to all the locations and to the various landmarks visited, Cook was blown away by the experience.
“It was just fantastic, everything was done with respect,” said Cook.
Among the standout moments for him included visiting the Iwo Jima Memorial, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Vietnam Wall, and also warm welcomes from both a local fire department and one at D.C.’s Reagan Airport.
“The fire department down there [Blanchester] had their cross [water] cannons spraying water, which is normally reserved for pilots retiring,” said Cook.
“We got back to Blanchester at about 2 a.m., and our fire department had their ladder with flag,” Cook remarked with appreciation.
Butler stated they are planning to do another Honor Flight next April, and if any veteran wants to take part in it he or she can visit Honorflightdayton.org to register or they can contact Butler at 937-283-5995.
“By the end, you are physically drained but you’re on an emotional high,” said Butler. “Any veterans out there have to go on this.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-556-5766.