Always Free Honor Flight’s Historic SIXTH Trip! 5.20.15
Always Free Honor Flight is so much more than I could ever put into words, but every time we make a trip, I’m reminded of the debt we owe the brave men and women who preserve the freedoms we’ve always had and, in some ways, take for granted. In the case of our WWII heroes who saved the world and became known as The Greatest Generation . . . these days they average 90 years of age and are the most humble, funny, grateful men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The same is true of our Korean heroes, slightly younger, but every bit as wonderful. For the Vietnam veterans we take with us, all I can say is, it’s about time you were thanked for your service to our country.
AFHF made history this year as 96 Year old WWII veteran, John M. Watson received his long overdue Congressional Gold Medal and red jacket, recognizing him officially as a Tuskegee Airman. Such an honor for all of us to be present for this momentous occasion.
I was speechless (something that anyone who knows me will tell you is some kind of miracle) when Senator Joe Manchin presented me with a replica of Sgt. Watson’s Tuskegee Gold Medal for the part my team and I played in making this dream a reality for our WWII hero. If you’ve never seen a Congressional Gold Medal, here it is!
This trip was full of firsts, one of those firsts was my friend and America’s Got Talent winner, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. honoring our veterans with his rendition of our National Anthem at the US Capitol. He was a huge surprise, spending the day with us, touring the memorials that honor the service of these brave vets.
Another first was West Virginia’s Adjutant General, James Hoyer, who joined us in Washington to express his thanks to our WV veterans. From the West Virginia National Guard, SM Kevin Harry who made the trip from beginning to end with us. To the WV Patriot Guard who escorted us all the way to Beckley, WV, thank you!
The Sleep Inn here in Princeton didn’t hesitate for one second to supply rooms for our out-of-town veterans. As a matter-of-fact, the were eager to help us and for that, we’re unbelievably grateful.
My personal thanks to my personal assistant Pam Coulbourne, also Honor Flight’s coordinator, for working her tushy off months in advance preparing for each trip. WVVA deserves huge kudos for sending reporters Kathlynn Stone and Courtney Davis on the trip with us and airing their stories all the way through Memorial Day, making the public aware that we’re here, helping us get the word out to every deserving veteran. Many thanks to the Register-Herald in Beckley and reporter Cody Neff for making the trip with us.
Thank you to Kevin Pennington and Charlie Croy, our medics who watch these veterans like hawks for the full 24 hours they’re in our care. To Steve Coleman for being my friend for the last 20 years and taking the gorgeous professional photos that document each trip. Thank you to Sergeant Paul Dorsey and the JROTC, who are such an asset to AFHF. I can’t begin to tell you. Seeing these young people interact with our older veterans is a sight to behold.
To Senator Joe Manchin and his staff, Always Free Honor Flight wouldn’t be AFHF without you. I adore each and every one of you. Thank you also to Senator Shelley Capito and Congressman Evan Jenkins, who took time from their hectic schedules to meet and honor our WV heroes.
Always Free Honor Flight is the culmination of the hard work of many individuals, media willing to cover us and businesses stepping up to support us. I’m so proud of my team, Always Free Honor Flight is a labor of love for all of us!
Now . . . a big thank you to everyone who took time to read this!