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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 29, 2009, Pages 1 & 8

Four more county veterans
take honor flight to capitol

Ringgold county World War II veterans who took the latest Honor Flight to see the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. included, from left: John May, L.Banks Wilson, Hap Richards and Amon Hunt.

Another group of Ringgold county World War II veterans took the Central Iowa Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Oct. 13, giving them an opportunity to see the World War II monument along with fellow veterans.

Amon HUNT, John MAY, Robert "Hap" RICHARDS and L. Banks WILSON made the trip this time with a flight sponsored by Casey's General Stores.

Like the area veterans who made the trip on an earlier flight, the Ringgold county veterans felt the trip was a wonderful opportunity.

It was another long day for the participants, who had a banquet with family members at Prairie Meadows Casino Monday night. They were up early Tuesday morning for a 2:30 a.m. continental breakfast to prepare for the trip and were on the go until after midnight.

"It was the greatest experience a fellow could have," said John MAY, who was a Navy veteran from World War II.

MAY worked on amphibious assault transports, working first in the European theater, then traveling through the Panama Canal to serve at a number of sites in the Pacific during his tour of duty between October 1942 and December 25, 1945.

"Our job was to take soldiers into shore so we didn't stay in any one place bu tmoved from invasion area to invasion area," MAY said.

Seeing the World War II monument was a highlight of the trip for MAY, who had never been that far east in the United States before or taken a commercial airplane trip.

Because MAY was with the invasion force at Iwo Jima, he made it a point to walk down to see the Iwo Jima Memorial as part of the trip as well.

"It was nice to be able to see that memorial in person as well," MAY said.

Traveling with veterans from different places around the state was also a great experience, MAY said.

"The trip was even more than I expected," MAY said.

For Hap RICHARDS, the most exciting part of the trip was seeing that people would still care about and honor the veterans almost 65 years after their service.

RICHARDS entered the service in January 1943 and spent almost four years in the Navy.

Most of the time he was an airplane mechanic with a PBY squadron, stationed in South America. The planes were on submarine [Page 8] patrol and worked to help protect convoys traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Mechanics were required to fly in the planes they worked on to make sure they were working correctly.

"It was a good way to make sure mechanics were dong their best work," RICHARDS said.

His squadron sank at least four enemy submarines during the year he was working in South America and the squadron lost one plane.

After a year in South America, he came back to the east coast for postings in Rhode Island, Brooklyn, NY, and outside Virginia Beach, VA, for the rest of his service.

The people including the motorcycle patrol who cheered the veterans as they went to their opening banquet Monday night made a big impression on RICHARDS.

he enjoyed seeing the World War II memorial but the Korean War Memorial, which he saw for the first time, which is made up of life-sized statues of soldiers on patrol in Korea really stood out in his mind.

He noted that the large group of 500 veterans on the flight were all dressed alike in yellow and red shirts and looked alike with their white hair, hearing aids and the like.

All of the Ringgold county veterans wanted to get together at one time for a picture but in the crowd they didn't make it so a composite picture was put together for this article.

And yet it was a small world too.

When RICHARDS was getting off an elevator he met a person from Indianola. When he said he was from Mount Ayr, the veteran said he had a message for him. RICHARD'S sister had cut the Indianola veteran's hair the day before the trip and she asked him to say "hi" to her brother if they ran into each other.

And they did.

"You just can't put in words what that experience meant to me," said L. Banks WILSON of the trip with the Central Iowa Honor Flight.

WILSON was in the Navy from April 1943 through November 1945. After basic training in Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho and sonar school in San Diego, WILSON spent his time on a mine sweeper in the Aleutian Islands between Adaka and Attu.

"We did not get into any skirmishes as we patrolled what was called the end of the earth," WILSON said.

"It's hard to choose any one experience as the highlight because all of the trip was great."

Like Hap RICHARDS, seeing people out at 3:30 a.m. to cheer them on their trip and to have a high school band playing for them as they boarded the plane was quite a farewell.

"Having those people thank us for what we had done at that time of the morning was humbling," WILSON said.

In Washington, D.C. they found more people thanking them for their service as well.

This was the first time that WILSON had been to the World War II memorial and he found it quite impressive.

He noted that Congressman Leonard BOSWELL was at the World War II memorial to greet the Iowans as well.

The veterans also visited the Korean, Vietnam and Iwo Jima memorials and of these the Iwo Jima memorial meant the most to WILSON.

"I had a high school buddy who was killed in the fighting there," he noted.

There were veterans from Lamoni and Union county on the trip as well, but WILSON said he only ran into one veteran that he knew. That was a golfing buddy from the senior golf tour the area had a few years ago.

WILSON said the veterans were really taken care of. They were given matching polo shirts, fleece jackets and caps along with goody bags of snacks and fanny packs to wear during the tours.

The veterans were divided into color groups and stayed with their groups on buses in Washington, D.C. There were 50 volunteers to help the 500 veterans on the trip and they did a wonderful job of taking care of those on the trip, especially those who needed wheel chairs.

"We have to give a big thank you to Casey's for their sponsoring the trip," WILSON said.

It was a long day from the 2:30 a.m. start until returning after midnight, but it was worth every minute of it," WILSON said.

"They didn't miss a lick in organizing the trip for us," Amon HUNT said of the trip.

HUNT served in the Army infantry, battling in the islands of the South Pacific during his stint in the service between 1944 and 1946.

This trip took a 747 airplane to take the 500 veterans and 50 volunteers to Washington, D.C. and just the size of the plane was amazing to HUNT. "It was quite an airplane.

HUNT said he couldn't say enough about the volunteers who helped direct the veterans as they traveled around. The veterans were divided into groups by color for riding on buses in smaller groups.

He thought the volunteer who helped tour his bus around the nation's capital (sic) did an especially good job.

Like the other veterans, he was proud of the yellow shirt, fleece jacket and cap that he received as part of the trip.

Veterans ranged in age from 82 to 100 on the trip, he noted. He didn't find many people he knew on the trip, but he did get to visit with John KNAPP, one of the veterans from Decatur county.

While having people cheer on the veterans along the trip was meaningful. HUNT said that the visit to the World War II memorial was the highlight of the trip for him.

"I was really thankful that I had the chance to make the trip," he said.

  Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2012

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