Three World War II veterans, who were on an honor flight to Washington, D.C., in October, and one WWII veteran who was on the April honor flight, all agreed -- one of the most impressive sights they had the chance to see was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“I couldn’t believe you could find three young men who look exactly alike - height, weight, faces - and not be triplets,” said Cap Holter of Glasgow, in reference to the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “And I got to see Audie Murphy’s grave in Arlington Cemetery. That cemetery is really something.”
Holter, Adeline Mitchell and Maury Graham of Glasgow and Joe Carson of Fort Peck were the honored guests at a Veterans Day dinner held at the Nashua Senior Citizen Center on Nov. 10. Graham also served during the Korean Conflict. The dinner was sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Post 104.
Also present were a veteran from the Montana Army National Guard, three Vietnam veterans, a veteran who served during the Cuban Crisis, a Marine veteran who served in WWII, and one veteran who served between WWII and the Korean Conflict. Branches of the service represented were Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) met the veterans of the October honor flight at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Mitchell told the audience she was assigned to the Pentagon during WWII and worked for Admiral King. Commenting on her trip, she said seeing Arlington Cemetery was a highlight for her.
Each veteran was asked when they were in the military and which branch they served in.
Holter said he served in the Pacific, saying that all the troops survived several malaria outbreaks. He also told of while standing at attention one morning, snakes started dropping out of the trees surrounding the area where the troops were.
“One young lad from North Dakota had a snake drop onto his shoulder,” commented Holter. “He screamed and then we all screamed and that snake dropped to the ground and took off.”
Carson spoke about his time in the Pacific and driving trucks, after the truck he was driving tipped over following a heavy rain. He said there was discussion about what he should drive next and when he asked about driving a jeep, was told he couldn’t do that because his legs were too long.
Lalon Trang’s wife, Arlene, spoke about a story he had told her not long ago. It seems he had to take a test to see what he was best suited for. He thought the test would show he should drive trucks as he had driven a combine on the farm from the time he was very young. It turned out the test showed he would be a perfect fit to fly airplanes.
Joe Carson’s daughter, Debbie, said there were 89 veterans on the flight. The other 200 seats on the plane were filled with veteran’s escorts, a doctor, a respiratory therapist, an occupational therapist, and aides to assist the veterans.
Most honor flights average 93 veterans and there is approximately one aide per veteran.
“The WWII Memorial is really awesome,” said Graham, who also served during the Korean Conflict.
Carson’s daughter told those present at the dinner that the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changes every half hour from April through October and every hour from November through March. She said the guards take 21 steps, stand still for 21 seconds, click their heels, turn, and take 21 steps back from where they started. Everyone watching the changing of the guard is told beforehand they are to stand, if possible, and be totally silent during the ceremony. If someone makes a noise, a guard will approach the person and loudly ask them to remain silent.
The bus the veterans were on had a police escort as it made its way to the WWII Memorial.
“You know,” said Holter, “you hear about these memorials and you see them in pictures and on television, but actually standing in front of them is something else again.”
All veterans who go on an honor flight do so at no charge to them. A person who is escorting a veteran on the flight pays $700.
The honor flights are suspended now until April when they will once again transport WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial.