The retired U.S. Marine officer thumbed through the photos on his phone, showing his trip three years ago to Washington, D.C., with his mother, a Marine who served during World War II.
“She really enjoyed it,” said Jim Irwin, who served in the Marines for 28 years on both active duty and the reserves from 1972-2000.
Every year the retired lieutenant colonel, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif., travels to Carson City for the annual chili cookoff at Glen Eagles, a major fundraiser for Honor Flight Nevada. He’s a firm supporter of Honor Flight Nevada’s mission that flies veterans to the nation’s capital to see both the war and civilian monuments reflective of the nation’s history.
Irwin smiled when describing his 94-year-old mother, who served in Southern California during the final two years of the war as a cook and later as a bookkeeper at Camp Pendleton. Before heading west to the California coast, Dorothee Irwin entered the military in 1943 and completed her basic training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“She was born in Cambridge (Mass.) and enlisted in Boston,” Irwin explained.
“Because she was 20 years old, her father had to be with her when she enlisted.”
Male enlistees could enlist by themselves if they were 18 years old, while women had to be 21.
“When I went with her a couple years ago, it was like she was a rock star,” Irwin said.
When she visited Washington, a group of active-duty Marines shook everyone’s hands who were part of the Honor Flight.
Irwin said many veterans have never seen the monuments, and that’s the major reason he volunteers every year to help Honor Flight Nevada raise funds to pay for the older veterans to travel to Washington.
Irwin comes from a military family. His father also served in the Marine Corps, and when his father retired, he settled the family in Palm Springs. Irwin attended schools there before attending a junior college and later San Diego State University.
John Yuspa, Honor Flight Nevada’s executive director and founder, said the chili cookoff — held last weekend — is one of the most important fundraisers as it attracts cooks from both Nevada and out-of-state.
“Carson City is famous for this little thing,” he said. “The winner of this cookoff goes to the nationals, which are later in Reno.”
During the weekend, Yuspa and his board of directors received checks ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars.
Sous chef Dale Hart, who served with the U.S. Army’s 199th Infantry Battalion in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, said fundraisers like these are important in helping veterans travel to see their nation’s monuments.
Hart traveled on the first Honor Flight Nevada trip that included Vietnam veterans.
Board member “Big John” Konvicka said he has enjoyed promoting Honor Flight Nevada and how it brings smiles and joy for the travelers.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of charities, but I enjoy this one the most,” Konvicka said. “I see how it affects so many men and women after a trip.”
Also a veteran, Konvicka said the goal is to get as many World War II and Korean War veterans back to Washington. If a veteran is terminally ill, Konvicka said that individual is bumped up to the next flight.
During the year, Honor Flight Nevada has many fundraisers to help fund as many veterans on the trips. Konvicka said next one is a charity golf tournament and dinner on Aug. 27 at The Club at ArrowCreek. For information on the golf tournament or Honor Flight Nevada, people can go to the website, HonorFlightNV.org, call 775-315-3700 or email him at BigJohn@HonorFlightNV.org.