Brookshire's officials and a team of two dozen volunteers will escort the veterans as they visit the World War II Memorial, tour the Capitol building with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, witness the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery and visit a host of memorials in the nation's capital.
The trip will take place Thursday to Saturday, starting with a Thursday morning public sendoff at the Brookshire's on Rice Road, where country superstar Trace Adkins will sing the national anthem.
Those taking part are:
Walter Allen – Pittsburg
Allen, a corporal, said he “learned to be a man responsible for not only myself but for my fellow man, to protect them and sacrifice in whatever way needed. The impressions on my life through those days, I will carry to my grave. I am honored to have served.”
Adolphus Barnett – Jefferson
Chuck Bice – Tyler
Bice, a sergeant, said he was proud to serve his country. “I'll never forget the stench on Omaha Beach, the wicket 88s (German anti-tank gun) while we were building the bridge at Carentan (known as the Tucker Bridge). Our Major Tucker was killed on the bridge.”
Bice also recalls the “bitter freezing weather during the 'Battle of the Bulge.'”
Chub Boyd – Kilgore
He said he “became more aware of the importance of why we had to maintain a strong fighting force for the defense of our nation” and “more aware of my need for self-discipline in my personal life.”
Harold Burgess – Hideaway
“We had been out to sea about three weeks on a small carrier, unescorted, with the flight deck and hangar deck completely packed with planes...” Burgess recalls. “It was about 2 o'clock in the morning when the captain got on the horn and said, 'This is the captain speaking. I realize there are many new people aboard, so I think it is only fair to tell you we are being followed by what we believe to be a (Japanese) sub. If general quarters is sounded, go to your stations just like you have been trained. That is all.' About 30 minutes later, general quarters was sounded and that bunch of young 18-19-year-olds took care of the situation just like they were 20-year Navy veterans.”
Louis Burleson Jr. – Tyler
Charlie Chelf – Tyler
Elzie Clark – Bullard
“Everyone felt a need to unite and serve our great country in time of need,” Clark wrote. “It was an honor I could serve as a soldier to defend our country, the USA.”
James Dove – Canton
Dove said his service was a “great experience, but I didn't want to make it a career.” Despite “an anxious atmosphere in the total society, there was also a determined mindset and dedication to the war effort by everyone,” he said.
Art Elchek – Tyler
Elchek, who enlisted at age 17 the day after Pearl Harbor, said he learned responsibility and grew up during the war. He said four years of service during a war will age one in a hurry, but accepting responsibilities in the service makes one more able to cope with civilian life.
Aalon Ferguson – Longview
Ferguson said the war “changed the course of my life.” Vivid memories include his relationships with other Marines and “the suffering on Guadalcanal.” That battle, considered to be a turning point in the war in the Pacific, cost the 1st Marine Division 650 killed, 1,278 wounded and 31 missing in action. Around 8,500 men, more than half of the division, contracted malaria.
Ben Fitzgerald – Tyler
Gwin Fulgham – Malakoff
“Military service prepared me to excel. I was focused when I returned from overseas. I started college and never looked back,” Fulgham said. “But it took the help of my wife and family. It has been a good life.”
Al Gallo – Frankston
“I entered the Air Corps at the age of 17, and ultimately became an officer and a combat pilot in B-24s,” Gallo said. “Flak was always very heavy and my plane was shot down during one mission over Austria. I was rescued by Austrian citizens and ultimately returned to my unit to resume flying.”
Gallo treasures the friendships he made during the war, including his commanding officer, the future Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas and the beautiful lady who would become his wife.
Homer Garrett – Lindale
“Ninety-six members of my battalion were killed in a single day and many more were injured,” he said. “I spent 10 months in the hospital and never returned to my unit. Most problems in life do not measure up to that experience. I have been blessed to be an American and live my life in this great country. I know the price of freedom.” (March '43-April '45)
Robert Gleghorn – Tyler
“I grew up in a hurry. The point system allowed me the opportunity to get a college education. The service time allowed me the opportunity to ... visit overseas places I had only previously dreamed about. It was quite an experience for this fellow coming from a small West Texas town.”
O.R. Hamilton – Winnsboro
“It was a complete change from civilian life. It made me grow up. I made many lifelong friends. I saw many countries I would not have seen and spent 344 days in combat in Italy. I was in three campaigns.”
“I was on Mount Battaglia for seven days and nights. A few days before the end of the war we were overrun by the Germans and lost most of our equipment. Thirty men were taken prisoner, including my best friend, Neil Clute.”
Jack Hester – Holly Lake Ranch
Hester writes that “I hit the beach of Iwo Jima on the first day. H-Hour was 8 a.m. I was on the beach at 8:10 a.m. The invasion lasted 36 days; I was there for 36 days; I did not get the Purple Heart.”
Jerry Higgs – Flint
Of the invasion of Sicily, Higgs writes: “We took the 3rd Army Division to war. We took the 36th Army Division to war. We took the French Foreign Legion to war. We took the Grecian Night Fighters to war. We took the Gurka Night Fighters to war ... all on LST 77.
“It proved to me that war is very ugly. I learned to fight an enemy who knew no bounds. The Christian and compassionate part of me guided me in all the duties that were required of me.”
Cliff Horbury – Flint
Horbury said the Navy trained him for the career he would have most of his life. “I attended the Quaker City School of Aeronautics for 15 months under the GI Bill. I worked at Chance-Vought and Ling-Temco-Vought aircraft companies as a licensed mechanic in the experimental division. At one time, I was astronaut John Glenn's plane captain.
Also, while in training at Quonset Point, R.I., he met a Navy nurse who would become his wife. The two have been married 67 years and are making the Heroes Flight trip as a couple.
Helen Horbury – Flint
“There were five in our family of nine children who were in the service. My sister received three battle stars as an Army nurse. My brother, Don (an Air Force B-24 pilot), whose last radio transmission was 'on fire, going down,' was never found, but his son Ron was born the week his father was killed. Ron grew up, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and became a pilot like his father and later retired from the Air Force as a colonel.”
Jim Jenkins – Tyler
“At times we would have to look for employment because ships were not available,” Jenkins said. One such case was in Houston, and “we had to go to the West Coast by hitchhiking and riding a freight train – at our personal expenses.”
Of the Merchant Marines, Jenkins writes, we were “a very dedicated group.”
Walt Larsh – Tyler
Larsh said he would like young people today to know that “we were all very loyal to our country and were very proud to be Americans. That pride and loyalty continues today.”
George Martin Jr. – Longview
“I entered the war on my 17th birthday and served for a little more than four years, the last six months in hospitals from Manila to Corona, Calif. I spent three years in the Pacific Theater, and like most veterans who had combat experience, those years were filled with periods of fear, exhilaration and uncertainty. Overall, they taught you discipline, respect for others and the ability to get along with those serving with you under crowded, uncomfortable circumstances.”
Oakley Newton – Jacksonville
“The experiences are ones that you never forget,” Newton writes.
Noel Parker – Tyler
“The first reflection I feel most assuredly through the providence of God that I never faced a loaded enemy gun during my service on Leyte and with the occupation forces assigned to Hokkaido,” Parker said. “I never had to threaten to use a weapon in three years of military service.”
Marcus Ramsey – Mount Vernon
“We were called to serve and went proudly to do what had to be done,” Ramsey writes. “I was one of four brothers who all served in World War II, and a fifth went to Korea.”
Jesse Rasmussen – Tyler
“I was a soldier in the 3013 Combat Engineers, which was right behind the infantry in Leyte, Philippines. The tensions were very high going into the area and not knowing what lie ahead,” Rasmussen said. “I landed in New Guinea during the fighting there. That area became a staging area to go into the Philippines and Japan. I guarded Japanese prisoners of war. I also took a group of native headhunters out into the jungle to cut bamboo for setting up tents. Since I did not want my head sitting on some post in front of someone's hut, I was on my best behavior making friends.”
George Regas – Whitehouse
Regas said his service “made me appreciate being an American, taught me to be responsible and to cherish life.”
Robert Shaw – Lindale
“I grew up on a farm in Illinois, so I got a lot of knowledge of the world and experience, plus knowledge of being in the service life.”
Garrett Smith – Athens
Smith made a career of the Navy, retiring Nov. 30, 1969. “If I had it to do over again, I would probably do the same thing,” he said. “A very positive experience.”
“When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I had just turned 17 and tried to join the Marines on Dec. 8, 1941. They told me to go home till I could shave. I was heartbroken. Seven months later I tried to join the Navy. They told me I was too small (95 pounds).” Smith ate steadily, including lots of ice cream, and weighed in at 103 pounds and got in. After three weeks of Navy chow, he weighed 130 pounds. “I was starving and didn't know it,” he said.
Jack Terry – Tyler
“I believe the Army would be a great experience for any young man or young lady,” he said. “I had two sons who spent time in the Navy. One served two terms, one on Midway and a second tour on the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise.”
Johnny Wells – Tyler