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Voice of the community: Honor Flight is the experience of a lifetime | Voice of the community

I just returned from a trip with the Kern County Honor Flight #44 to see the Capitol and various military monuments in Washington, DC It’s hard to say what overwhelmingly positive effect this trip had on me.

On our first day of visiting, we were greeted at the Capitol by aides to Rep. Kevin McCarthy and treated like royalty as we sat in the chambers of the House of Representatives. Rep. McCarthy then took at least an hour and a half to discuss the function of the House and to meet with each veteran individually, in addition to providing multiple photo opportunities (portrait, selfies, etc.). He was sincere in his support and affection for all of us and his time was most appreciated.

From there we traveled to Arlington National Cemetery, where we watched the official changing of the guard and the laying of a wreath brought by Honor Flight. We spent the afternoon at the WWII, Korea and Vietnam memorials where wreaths were also laid. We had a WWII veteran, seven from Korea, and over 80 from Vietnam, plus the first two “Rosie the Riveters” to invite (all called blueshirts because of our “uniforms”). Each memorial was honored with varying degrees of emotion as we remembered our own experiences and mourned those who could not return with us.

This evening offered a special dinner where each veteran was introduced, a short biographical reading and memorabilia presented, not the least of which was a flag certified to have flown over the capital in that veteran’s name, made possible by Rep. McCarthy. Hearing the biographies of our fellow vets provided us with a strong bridge to connect with one another. This ceremony was certainly another highlight of this extraordinary trip.

Our second day began at the Iwo Jima Memorial, where we were greeted by over 100 children from an Atlanta school, each thanking us, as we walked through their “Hallway of Honor.” We even joined together to sing “God Bless America”, leaving not a dry eye in the place. This surge of affection and thanks was seen everywhere we went; from sending off the water cannon at Meadows Field, to a similar ceremony when we arrived in Baltimore; just lines of people clapping as they pass; and, to people who take time out of their day to come shake hands with us and thank us for our service.

It continued as we visited the Navy Memorial, then Fort McHenry, to see where “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written in 1814, and to find out what the Battle of Baltimore might have been like. the airport and a reunion with the Allegiant Airline crew who had looked after us so well on the charter flight from Bakersfield.

On the flight home we were given a “postal call” and presented with a package containing letters, cards, notes from our families, local veterans organizations and so many young students that it was almost overwhelming. Men and women in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s reading their mail and whining.

Finally, we returned to Meadows Field, caught buses, and were taken to North High School, where hundreds of friends, family, students, etc. were waiting to welcome us home. What a totally awesome experience for those who had been forgotten for so long but are no longer forgotten.

The biggest raves should be reserved for all volunteers associated with Honor Flight Kern County. From the “caretakers” (the red shirts) who helped those of us who needed help with transportation, and made sure we were cared for and respected, to the routine volunteers (the white shirts) who lead this organization with such pride and purpose. While veterans don’t pay a dime for this experience, each volunteer pays their own way, with some having made this trip a dozen times or more. I just can’t say enough good things about these caring, caring people. Many thanks to each of you.

Now to those veterans who think they are not worthy of such recognition. They weren’t in a war zone, so how could they qualify? Each veteran when he enlisted (or was enlisted) took an oath to protect and defend the United States until and, if necessary, sacrificing his own life in its service. Most couldn’t choose their military specialty or where they would serve, but they all had a job to do and no job was more or less important than their own in the overall success of our military. So, yes, you are worthy and we expect you to join us. Nominations are available at Simply fill it out and send it to the address given. Believe me, it will change your life.

Stanley (Stan) Jones is a United States Army Veteran and served from February 1963 to November 1965, including a year-long tour of Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). After working for 40 years in computer-related industries, he is now enjoying his retirement in Bakersfield with Kim, his wife of 58 years. He had the honor and privilege of being a guest on flight #44, made even more special by having his grandson, Scott, join him as a guardian.

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