Orlin and LaVonne Hansen of Milton-Freewater participated in a four-day Honor Flight in late September out of Portland to Washington, D.C. They reported that one person from Hawaii, 25 Eastern Oregon and 24 Western Oregon World War II veterans and their guardians met for a dinner and orientation on Sept. 18. Each veteran received a World War II cap, name tag and Honor Flight bag and blue T-shirt. Guardians received T-shirts identifying their role, too.
The group and team leaders were transported by bus to the World War II memorial on the capital mall once they were in Washington. They each received a flag, toured the Capitol building and met with Rep. Greg Walden.
One day they took in the Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Korean War, Navy, Air Force and Iwo Jima memorials, the Vietnam War wall and at Arlington Cemetery visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“We saw the changing of the guard in pouring-down rain. That put a touch of Oregon on the ceremony,” the Hansens said.
The hospitality they were extended was excellent, they added. “Very well organized — delicious box lunches and buffet dinners.”
Orlin served in the U.S. Navy from July 12, 1943-1947. Boot training was at Camp Farragut in Idaho, followed by damage-control school in San Diego, Calif. He served aboard USS Bracken, an attack troop transport in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, landing troops in the Marshall Islands, Philippines and Okinawa and repaired landing craft.
His transport delivered 10,000 cases of beer to the 6th Marine Corps Regiment in China, he said.
“We were one of the first ships to liberate prisoners of war from Japan, taking them to Manila, Philippines. We then took troops from the Philippines to the states for discharge.”
More than 120,000 World War II veterans have participated in Honor Flights nationwide since the program started eight years ago, according to a fact sheet from the Bend (Ore.) Heroes Foundation.
They provided this experience free of charge to veterans. The air travel, lodging, meals and other expenses are valued at about $1,200 per person.
Ninety-one percent of the 16.1 million veterans of World War II have died since the war ended. The average age of the 1.4 million surviving veterans is 89. These veterans are dying at a rate of 900 per day, the fact sheet notes.
For more details from the Bend foundation, contact 541-390-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.