The Brookshire Grocery Co. Heroes Flight spent a second full day in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, filling the day from early morning to late evening.
The group of 27 World War II, Korean and Cold War veterans from East Texas and Louisiana boarded the bus early, arriving at the Korean War Veterans Memorial before the crowds. The men, including several who served during that conflict, lingered to study the faces etched in the black granite "Wall of Remembrance" and posed for photos in front of the 19 larger-than-life stainless steel statues of poncho-draped troops.
Floyd Faircloth, of Longview, an aviator who accumulated 10,000 flight hours during World War II, Korea and Vietnam; Jody Goolsby, of Hideaway, who served with the Navy in both World War II and Korea; and Tom Scannichio, of Tyler, who served in counter-intelligence with the Army during the Cold War days of the early 50s, said the monument meant a great deal to all of them.
From there, the group moved to the nearby Abraham Lincoln Memorial, where they marveled at the 19-foot-tall marble statue of Lincoln, our 16th president. From the top steps, Melvin Sparks, a Navy Reservist from Longview, and Loyd Watson, an Army veteran from Tyler, gazed across the reflecting pool to the World War II Memorial, their main destination Tuesday, and beyond to the Washington Monument.
After a short rest, the groups split up and followed the sidewalk past the statue of the "Three Soldiers" and down the cobblestone pathways into the hushed stillness of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They walked alongside the more than 58,000 names of those who died in Southeast Asia, then visited the Vietnam Women's Memorial that honors the eight women nurses whose names are also on "The Wall."
In downtown Washington, the veterans toured the Navy Memorial, where veteran sailors and naval fliers – such as Elmer Boyd of Blooming Grove, Weldon Hicks of Tyler, Johnny Clark of Flint, Jimmy Carter of Tyler, and Bill Vaughan of Big Sandy – posed with the statue of the "Lone Sailor" and explored the nearby museum.
The final tour of the day took the group to near Dulles Airport where they spent several hours exploring the vast collection of planes at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center / National Air and Space Museum. There, they stood beneath the wing of the Discovery Space Shuttle, looked down into the cockpit of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and sat through an Imax presentation about D-Day at Normandy Beach.
Their day complete and energy expended, the Heroes Flight contingent retreated to a quiet turkey dinner and patriotic celebration hosted by the Knights of Columbus in Arlington, Va. They joked with new friends, stood and saluted fallen comrades as Taps was played, and each veteran was presented an envelope bulging with letters written by East Texas students thanking the men personally for their service.
Thursday, after one final stop at the Air Force Memorial on a hill overlooking the Pentagon, the veterans who make up the ninth Brookshire's Heroes Flight will board a Southwest Airlines jet back to Love Field in Dallas, where they will return by bus to Tyler.
The bus is expected to arrive around 4:45 p.m., Thursday, and the public is encouraged to join in welcoming them home at the main entrance to FRESH by Brookshire's, 6991 Old Jacksonville Highway.
World War II and Korean War veterans from the Brookshire's market area who are interested in applying for possible future trips are encouraged to call Carolyn Langston at 903-534-3076 to request an application.