Three military veterans residing at Hemet Village retirement home were recently flown to Washington by the Honor Flight Network San Diego to thank them for their faithful service to the nation.
The veterans are Russell Jacobs, Marv Nottingham and Mark Renaud who served in World War II and the Korean War.
Each year, the Honor Flight Network selects a number of veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to board flights to Washington where they visit the Arlington National Cemetery, military monuments and museums and are given special recognition. The visits are free to the veterans.
Russell said his experience was a roller coaster of emotions and shared a little of it on his return.
“As we deplaned and entered the concourse and descended the escalator, we were welcomed by a crowd of about a thousand people, families and friends. Coast Guard, Marine and Navy Color Guards and groups of kids in school uniforms, scout troops, everyone waving flags and shouting welcomes,” Russell said. “It was loud and wonderful. A young girl with a truly powerful voice sang patriotic songs. Grannies in wheelchairs, husky guys with kids on their shoulders and young mothers with babes in arms, hugs and kisses and fist pumps all-around. It was beyond belief, just stunning.”
Mark Renaud was accompanied by his son, Bryce Renaud. Bryce Renaud served as his “guardian” during the trip. One incident stood out to Mark Renaud, and he shared his thoughts:
“As my son, Bryce and I stood at the Marine Memorial, I asked a man if he’d kindly take a photograph of my son and I in front of the memorial. He was visiting the memorial with his family. The man said he’d be happy to take our photo. Then, after he captured the moment for us, he said, ‘May I ask a favor from you?’
“I said, ‘Of course.’ He wanted me to take a photo with his 16-year-old son. It struck me as so respectful and kind that his young son wanted a photo of us together. It made my heart feel good to know that there are young people who respect those who served to protect our freedom,” Mark Renaud said.
Shared stories, meeting new friends and experiencing the fellowship of military service to the country and their stories are repeated by many veterans who participate in an Honor Flight trip.
Earlier this year, another Village veteran, Marv Nottingham took the Honor Flight and had an unforgettable experience, he said. Nottingham visited the Marine Corps War Memorial, which is dedicated to all U.S. Marine Corps personnel who died in defense of the United States since 1775.
He said it was an emotional moment. Having served in the United States Navy, Nottingham worked as a bulldozer operator for the 133rd Seabee Battalion. The group was attached to the 4th Marine Division. In January 1945, the battalion was shipped to Iwo Jima. On D-Day, Feb. 19, 1945, the 18-year old Nottingham and his Seabee battalion were put ashore with the task of clearing debris from the beach. His battalion suffered 42% casualties from Japanese mortars. Nottingham was awarded the Bronze Star for valor.
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization, and public donations enable the Honor Flight Network to continue its mission to transport veterans to Washington to visit their memorials.
The Honor Flight Network was co-founded by Earl Morse, the son of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, and Jeff Miller, a small-business owner and son of a World War II veteran.
There are now Honor Flight Network regional hubs across the United States. At the end of 2017 the network had escorted over 200,000 veterans to their memorials, free of cost to the veterans.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 World War II veterans die each day. Time is running out to express thanks to these brave men and women who served, Honor Flight Network said.
“They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side. To them we have a solemn obligation.” – Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
The Village, an active 60-plus Life Plan Community that offers three levels of care within the same campus. Contact www.thevillageriversidecounty.com.
Tony Ault can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.