Fallon woman returns from Honor Flight
LVN Editor Emeritus
RENO — They left Reno on the diamond anniversary of the D-Day invasion as strangers.
Four days later, more than 40 veterans and their guardians returned from Washington, D.C., as friends and brothers and sisters in arms after touring the nation’s memorials built in their honor.
One of the largest Honor Flight Nevada homecoming crowds packed the Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s corridor from the escalators to reception area. Family members and friends waved posters and miniature U.S. flags, while the Patriot Guard Riders stood at attention to form a flag detail along the corridor for the veterans who represented World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. As of this date, Honor Flight Nevada has flown 950 veterans to Washington.
Jean Warner of Fallon and her daughter Ann Kinney, who was a guardian, were part of the 28th Honor Flight Nevada. During their four days, they saw the World War II, Korean and Vietnam memorials, the U.S. Navy Museum, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial that is represented by the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National Holocaust Museum. The veterans also met former Republican Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Many veterans including Warner said they enjoyed the U.S. Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, along with the 24-member silent drill team. The 89-year-old Warner served during the Korean War era but was assigned to a stateside hospital administrative position. She was on a list to go to Korea, but she never received orders.
Warner and Kinney viewed the four days as an emotional trip. Kinney said being able to accompany the veterans including her mother was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I adore our veterans and being together with everyone one of them,” she said, wiping away a tear. “I’ll be there for them.”
The welcome home was just as emotional.
“It’s fitting this flight departed on the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” said Brian Kulpin, vice president of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority’s Marketing and Public Affairs, describing how 16,000 troops stormed France to free Europe from tyranny, which marked an important part of both American and world history and the nature of sacrifice and heroism. “We need to remember our heroes as we are doing today.”
Kulpin also gave pause to remember Nevada Army National Guard Staff Sgt. David Gallagher of Las Vegas who died last week in a training exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
The remembrance for D-Day and the Honor Flight Nevada gave Kulpin an opportunity to reflect on his family because his uncle was a part of the 101st Airborne’s “Screaming Eagles” who parachuted behind enemy lines as the invasion of Normandy unfolded.
Marily Mora, president and CEO, had a husband who served in Vietnam and a father who joined the military during World War II. She also noted the symbolic day of D-Day and the departure of the Honor Flight veterans.
“I have so much pride that we got to play a part of this that we could humbly stand here today and thank you again for your service,” she said.
Mora noted there were three father and son pairs, a daughter and her father, two married couples and a grandson and his grandfather. In addition, one Gold Star father who lost his son in Iraq accompanied the veterans and also visited his son’s final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.
Before the veterans departed Reno for their whirlwind trip, four-footers and their owners from Dogs 4 Paws greeted them at the airport for the sendoff and upon their return. The Comstock Lode quilters presented veterans with their own hand-sewn quilt.