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Honoring WWII Veterans

Posted on 07 November 2012 by admin

Monroe veteran, Barbara Wright traveled to D.C. on Willamette Valley’s first ever Honor Flight

submitted photo
Barbara Wright from Monroe stands in front of the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. She served in the US Coast Guard during WWII and visited the recently constructed memorial last month with other veterans on an Honor Flight.

By Gini Bramlett
For the Tribune

Thanks to a Eugene Company called CBT Nuggets, WWII Coast Guard Veteran, Barbara Wright of Monroe, boarded a Southwest Airline flight to Washington D.C. in mid October to visit the WWII Memorial along with other WWII Veterans. The national program is called Honor Flight and it gives WWII Veterans – the remaining in their late 80s and 90s – the opportunity to see the monument that was built to honor their service with no cost to them.
“I went in remembrance of all those who I served with in the Coast Guard, of school mates and friends,” said Wright, who serves as director of the Monroe Museum. “There were 15 casualties from the Monroe area. The trip revived those memories.”
The Honor Flight is offered for no cost to WWII Veterans and a ‘guardian’ if needed. The funding comes from private donations. Forty states have now sent Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., but this was the first time for the Willamette Valley.
Actually, two Honor Flights left the Portland Airport last month. The second was as a result of the surprise personal contribution from CBT Nuggets which included Wright and a guardian, along with 24 other veterans, some with guardians, as well. The company not only financed the trip, but sent along two of its employees to assist. If not for that surprise donation, Wright would have had to wait until spring.
“The sacrifices, the honor they gave, and then to think there’s never really been a chance to say thank you to them,” said CBT Nuggets CEO Dan Charbonneau. The donation was $30,000 to cover airfare, transportation and hotels for 25 veterans.
Among the group, only three were women, including Barbara Wright, USCG SPAR, 89, from Monroe; Betty Henderson, US Navy WAVE, 88, from Eugene; and Elizabeth Booth, Navy Nurse, 95, also from Eugene.
While in D.C. the group of 50 veterans – some with guardians– visited the Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and Women’s Memorial along with the WWII Memorial which was built only recently.
“The WWII Memorial is magnificent,” said Wright. “You can’t imagine the grandeur. You must see it to really appreciate it.”
The group was also privileged to be in Arlington National Cemetery to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, a solemn and reverend event.
“Once we entered Arlington Cemetery, they ask that you remain silent,” said Wright. “It ended with the changing of the guard, a new wreath is placed and the playing of taps, a very emotional event.”
More than 300,000 are buried in Arlington which includes veterans from all the wars.
Wright said they were treated like royalty starting with a banquet at the Shiloh Inn in Portland the evening before the Honor Flights left to special meals and bag lunches the hotel sent along when they toured the monuments.
“When we arrived in Chicago, I looked out the window and there was a fire engine riding along side of us,” said Wright. “They sprayed our plane with water cannons. When we arriving in the airport there were hundreds of people lined up to greet us. They clapped, thanked us and shook our hands. It was overwhelming, and again, very emotional.”
And, it happened all over again when the flights arrived in Washington, D.C. and again on their return flight in Portland.
“I wish all those occupiers and dissenters could go to Washington, D.C. and see Arlington Cemetery and the over 300,000 who have sacrificed to give them the right to be who they are,” said Wright. “Also to meet those old people on the trip and hear their stories.”
Wright urges interested WWII Veterans to contact Mike Pungercar, organizer for the South Willamette Valley Honor Flight to get their names on the list for future flights. To contact him, call 541.746.3469 or email pungercar2@msn.com.

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