Let’s honor the living | GUEST OPINION

Memorial Day, which will be celebrated on May 28, 2012, was instituted in 1868 to honor America’s dead in battle, but today I want to write about the living. About examples of living World War II veterans and about the Honor Flight Program.

S/1C Richard Greaves was on the Heavy Cruiser Salt Lake City in May of 1943, as it shelled Attu in the Aleutians, so that U.S. troops could invade and recapture North American soil from the enemy. You can find him any Tuesday at 10 a.m., having coffee and cake at State Street Safeway’s salute to local seniors. Pvt. Stan Jones Sr. was with armored U.S. Marines on Saipan waiting to invade Japan, when U. S. atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the war. He spent nine Occupation months ministering to Nagasaki victims afterward, and today can be found serving his Tulalip Tribe in some manner, as he did for 44 years (26 of those years as Chairman). EM2/C Dale Nakken survived five South Pacific invasions including the three-day naval battle of Surigao Strait, and was at Leyte when General MacArthur did, indeed, return to the Philippines as promised. Dale can be found most mornings in my kitchen, cooking breakfast.

All of these men report that many of the younger generation are beginning to thank them for their service when they see the WWII Veteran caps. “I think it’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families,” one told me. “They have come to realize the awful price of freedom.”

Honor Flight Inc. is a non-profit organization with one purpose: it sends WWII veterans back to D.C. to see their Memorial. Under the Lone Eagle Program, the veteran spends a long weekend and he/she travels with a companion one generation younger who makes a $400 donation. They stay in a Hilton hotel, all expenses paid. Twenty-six Western Washington vets and their companions have been in and out of Sea-Tac Airport this year so far, on the trip of a lifetime that honors their service to our country.  But there is currently a two-year waiting list for the Lone Eagle Program. The Solo Program requires that someone purchase the veteran’s airline tickets, the companion buys his own tickets in addition to the $400 donation, and the wait is much shorter. For applications or more information on the programs, see the group’s website at www.honorflight.org, or write the address below.

Time’s a’wastin’. An 18-year-old who enlisted in 1945 would be 85 years old today. There were nine veterans on the WWII truck in Arlington’s Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2010.  In 2011 there were only three.

Several local veterans volunteer their time to assist Honor Flight Inc. “But what Honor Flight needs most,” they say, “is publicity … and money.”  If you want to assist this cause, send your tax-deductible donation to Honor Flight Inc., 300 E. Auburn Ave., Springfield, OH 45505-4703.

Honor Flight’s motto captures the spirit of the cause: If you are reading this, thank a Teacher.  If you are reading it in English, thank a Veteran.  Do it today.

J. R. Nakken is a local author. Her books are in stock at Tulalip Hotel and Casino Gift Shops, Rainbow’s End in Everett, or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble on the Web.


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