Medford, Ore. — A group of local veterans are back in the Rogue Valley, following a weekend trip to Washington D.C. The World War II vets were told they were the last to go on an Honor Flight of Oregon, a program that takes veterans to memorials at the Nation’s capitol. But upon arriving home, organizers had an extra special surprise.
“Everywhere we went, all the airports, everybody met us like this, clapping, and it was just… way too much to, to take in,” David Haines said.
Haines, a retired air force veteran, is one of the twenty-two vets treated by Honor Flight of Oregon to a weekend on the East Coast. The group was taken to their memorial on the National Mall.
“This thing was a blast, without these guys, it wouldn’t have been the same,” Haines said. “They just made it super special for us.”
Haines said the star treatment is something they’re not used to.
“Being from the Vietnam era, you know, you come home, and you weren’t even acknowledged as existing,” Haines said. “And now we’re doing this, and it’s like, it’s just totally 180-degrees out, everybody’s so glad to see us, and it just really made our, it just, really made it so special.”
Haines said the trip was well worth it. For many, their journey to get to this point wasn’t easy.
“It’s a dip back in memories… that are both fond and hurtful,” Bill Cochran said.
Cochran, an army veteran, said the experience brought the past to the forefront, including when he first tried to enlist.
“World War II, we went down when it broke out, a bunch of us,” Cochran recalled. “And because I wore glasses, they didn’t let me volunteer.”
Cochran said he was disappointed, but settled down and got married.
“We decided to have children, we decided that over Christmas, and guess what happened in March?” Cochran said. “I got my draft orders.”
Looking back now, he’s glad for the experience, and thankful for the gratitude and appreciation of an entire community.
“I’m happy, tearfully happy I guess at the moment,” Cochran said.
Upon arrival at the airport, the Honor Flight of Oregon made a special announcement. The program was set to end after this flight, but instead, it’s here to stay, and expanding. The organization plans to open flights to Korean war veterans as well.