Ivan Ray talks about his "Honor Flight" day
May 3, 2013, Commentary and slideshow By Ivan Ray, What a fantastic tribute to all the men and women that were asked to serve or volunteered to serve and protect our homeland and all of our freedoms. There were 89 on our flight-24 World War II and 64 Korean era veterans invited to go to Washington DC to visit the memorials of our country’s various conflicts.
We left Abraham Lincoln’s Capital Airport at 6:15 am CST and arrived at Reagan Memorial Airport at 9:00 am . We then boarded buses to travel to the WWII Memorial for a group photo and flag ceremony. At the ceremony I asked for a prayer by name for Walter Ray, my third cousin. He was a pilot who died in a jet crash. He was a member of my graduating class of 1951 at Havana Community High School. Maroon and White, Fight, Fight.
We then proceeded to the Korean War Memorial which commemorates the era when I served as a lieutenant in the artillery as a forward observer to call in artillery support for the infantry up front in the battles. I hels my copy of the Democrat by the stainless steel statue of a forward observer. For being a such a tall statue, (7’ 4”) it looked quite real.
Next were the VietNam and Lincoln Memorials. It was then time to have lunch furnished by Subway. Our breakfast had been provided by Burger King. We then went on to visit the Air and Space Museum at the Dulles Airport. We ate our lunch on this 45 minute ride.
We then traveled back to visit the Iwo Jima memorial statue of the famous raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi. There were 7,000 soldiers killed in that battle. The statue showed five marines and one medic raising the flag, however there was one extra hand on the flagpole which they told us was the hand of God. After that it was time to proceed to visit the Air Force Memorial. The memorial was so tall that it was difficult to photograph.
While I was stationed in Augsburg Germany with the 5th Infantry Division, I was executive officer of the division’s artillery. In November of 1955 I was assigned a mission by General Soleman to select 45 men to go to Fort Ord California to set up our new headquarters. The buildings were already there. I just had to select the buildings to accommodate the 2,300 men. As executive officer, that position was for the rank of Major, which I was until I finished my service commitment in May of 1956. Ihad a total of 8 years and 8 months in both active army and the reserve.
We then made our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the chaging of the guard in silence. The inscription on the tomb reads. ”Here rests in honor and glory an American soldier, unknown but to God.” We then visited Arlington cemetery where many thousands are buried. They are still burying about 6,800 soldiers there every year. Audie Murphy’s tomb was decorated when we were there. He was the most decorated soldier of World War II. He had achieved the rank of Major by battlefield commission. After his service time he went to Hollywood and made many movies. One of the battle he was in was made into the movie “To Hell and Back” in which he played himself.
Now it was 6 pm and time to return to the airport to enjoy our Arby’s dinner while we waited for departure at 8:10 to arrive in Springfield at 9:30 pm. On the flight home we had mail call with cards and letters thanking us for the sacrifice of our time away from home, family and friends. It was a very emotional day. When we arrived at the airport there were hundreds of friends, family, flags and bagpipes welcoming us home. Emotions really took over.
Thank God for the Honor Flight program. This was no cost to the veterans. We were all assigned a guardian to make sure we saw everything we wanted to see. My guardian was Tom Harris Jr. He had also been a guardian for his father, a World War II pilot in a P-38. All the guardians were fabulous; however, Tom Harris Jr. was fantastic. He really went the extra mile.
Wheel chairs were provided by Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital and Memorial Medical Center.
If any individual or company or corporation is in a financial position to contribute to the Honor Flight program, please do so in God’s name for other veterans and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Donations may be made to
Land of Lincoln Honor Flight Inc.
10912 St. Francis Lane
St. Ann MO 63074
Attn.: Ray Wiedle
Those going from Lincoln on the flight were Gerald Carter, Tom Harris, James Franklin and Richard Ivan Ray. Alan Pegram was also supposed to go but he got sick at the last minute and was not able to make the flight.
The flights can continue as long as they receive funding from many generous people. All veterans deserve to go and see all the memorials commemorating all the conflicts our nation has been involved in to preserve our freedoms that we continue to enjoy in God’s name.