Delaware resident Bruce Roberts was among the veterans Honor Flight Columbus recently flew to Washington, D.C., to see the nation’s war memorials.
Veterans of the Korean War are now becoming the country’s senior veterans, he observed.
“On the flight to Washington, D.C., most of the vets were Korea veterans,” said Roberts, a Delaware resident and Korean War veteran. “There are not many WWII veterans left.”
“They call it the forgotten war,” Roberts, 83, said about the Korean War.
Several times a year, Honor Flight Columbus takes area veterans to see the war memorials in Washington.
“It was very touching to see these things and to visualize how many people lost their lives in war,” Roberts said. “It was just a tremendous experience.”
Roberts said 40,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives during the Korean War.
The war had a total of 5 million casualties for both sides.
“During the Korean War, we had the support of the people,” Roberts said, “unlike Vietnam.”
“People in general felt like they appreciated what we did,” Roberts said. “I think a lot of the Vietnam vets were treated like criminals.”
Honor Flight takes the veterans in chronological order of the wars fought and the terminally ill vets first. “We had a couple WWII on this trip,” Roberts said.
“Many of the guys were in wheelchairs,” Roberts said. “It was emotional to see these guys in wheelchairs at that age.”
Roberts’ flight carried 84 veterans and 44 guardians.
Guardians are volunteers who pay $300 for the privilege to be on the flight and help veterans get around the monuments. “They paid their own way,” Roberts said. “That’s unbelievable to me.”
“They needed some younger people to get the wheelchairs on and off the plane,” Roberts said. “Some of the guardians were vets of other wars and some were not.”
The vets filled three buses got a police escort from Baltimore to Washington.
“We didn’t have to stop for red lights or stop signs,” Roberts said. “We just flew from Baltimore to Washington.”
Roberts said it made for a very long day because the Honor Flight returned to Columbus around midnight. “I would encourage every vet to go,” he said.
After the plane landed and as it taxied to the terminal, fire trucks were on the runway to welcome them home. “They sprayed their water hoses to show their thanks,” Roberts said.
Roberts enlisted in the Army in 1951 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne as the chief training officer for chemical warfare.
“Nerve gas was the big thing,” Roberts said. “We went through a series of training for nerve gas.”
According to Honor Flight’s website, its mission is to honor the nation’s senior veterans with trips to Washington to visit their war memorials at no cost to them. The hope is that veterans will share their personal stories with future generations.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin