Lubbock welcomes South Plains Honor Flight back home after visits to Korean, Vietnam Memorials
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The final day of the 2022 Texas South Plains Honor Flight was one of great significance, with visits to the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. First, the three buses arrived Monday morning at the National Museum of the Marine Corps where exhibits included simulations of those wars. “The fox holes, artillery rounds going off in the background, the rifle fire and even the helicopter noises in there, it just brought it back,” Army veteran Jim Torres said. Along the National Mall, Kenneth Gentry, one of the Korean War veterans on the flight, helped to carry the wreath along the Korean War Memorial to place in front of the statues of service members. Gentry said an opportunity to place the wreath gave him a chance to reflect on what he went through and his buddies whose names are now on a new Wall of Remembrance. “It was a great honor to me, a great honor,” Gentry said.
As the South Plains Honor Flight moved toward the Lincoln Memorial steps for a group photo, tourists and strangers expressed their thanks. On the other side of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam War Memorial, inscribed with more than 58,000 names of service members who gave their lives. It’s where the veterans conducted the final wreath laying ceremony of the trip. “I see these names and my heart bleeds and I know that God’s got them,” Ebert said. Army veteran Les Beaty was brought to his knees seeing the name of Melvin Wink. “I pulled them out of the turret of the tank,” Beaty said.
Beaty said he had been waiting a long time to express those feelings and leave it all behind at the memorial. Meanwhile, a group of Hispanic Vietnam veterans, known as the Class of 69, were taking names home traced onto paper for fellow friends who served. From the baggage claim to down past the rental car counters family, friends and community members gathered Monday evening to welcome home the veterans at the Lubbock airport. “Back in those days, it was spitting on people,” one Vietnam veteran said. “They made everybody, especially the Vietnam veterans, they made them feel welcome home,” said another. The Texas South Plains Honor Flight provides three days in Washington, D.
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