Page 1

Honor Flight My trip.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com

V3 - 4/2010


Honor Flight

My Trip

I have been interviewing WW2 fighter pilots since 1999. I’ve been drawing their planes since 1969*. In my interviews, I try to learn about their character, leadership, personal development and wisdom in addition to the “combat stories.” These men have become mentors, friends...and one day, I’ll get my notes collected into a readable, reproducible form. But in the meantime, this presentation is about my chance to tag along on an “HONOR FLIGHT” with a group of WW2 veterans.

*Drawing dogfights on my schoolwork made it more exciting but didnʼt help my marks. The Morane 406 with the strange clouds is circa 4th grade. “Red” James, a Corsair pilot in WW2 and Korea is holding a framed print of my ʻpretty goodʼ rendering of his Korean-era F4U-4, 352nd FG ace Don Bryan is horsing around with my kids, a little P-39 I drew in my sketchbook and Col. Bill Creech shows me the Presidential Unit Citation his 528th FS earned.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

What's Honor Flight? It’s an organized program to fly WW2 veterans to Washington D.C. so they can experience the WW2 Memorial. Honor Flight started in Springfield, OH in 2005 when a Physicians Assistant named Earl Morse realized some of his veteran patients hadn’t seen their memorial. And probably never would. So he flew them at his expense to see

Above - The WW2 Memorial in Washington, D.C.

the WW2 Memorial. Above Left - Senator Marcy Kaptur from Ohio tried FOUR TIMES to get a bill passed through Congress to get the idea of a WW2 Memorial ratified. She tried in 1987. 1989. 1991. She finally succeeded in 1993. The monument was signed into law by President Clinton and dedicated by President Bush ELEVEN YEARS LATER in 2004. Right - Earl Morse. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com

I like these people.


Honor Flight

137

2005

Morse’s idea caught on rather fast. Today, 33 states have Honor Flights.

My Trip

891

2006

5,000

2007

By the end of this year, 50,000 vets will have made the trip.

11,137

2008

The Vets still don’t pay a thing.

17,832

2009

20,000

2010 (est) 0

4,000

8,000

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com

12,000

16,000

20,000


Honor Flight

My Trip

Anyway, South Dakota was getting ready to send its 5th Honor Flight out 106 Veterans - and I was asked if I’d like to tag along as a “Guardian.” Not quite sure of what the Guardians guarded, I had to ask the obvious question. “The Vets,” was the answer. This is my “Guardian” tag. It let everyone know I wasnʼt a 90 year old man. Sometimes, i act like one though. Or so Iʼm told.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

PULL APART HERE.

LIFT HERE.

My job as a Guardian would entail: • Loading & unloading wheelchairs • Pushing Vets in the wheelchairs • Helping Vets on/off/up/down steps • Cleaning up tour buses • Getting the Vets through Airport Security

At first blush, the whole thing sounded like a 5th grade field

Ever operated a wheelchair?

trip with wheelchairs. Let me save you some embarrassment: to fold a wheelchair, pull up on the front and back edges of the seat; to unfold, lean it over on one wheel and pull the arm rests apart. If you try to do it any other way, youʼll hurt yourself.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

I had to be at the airport at 5am. When I got there at 4:55am, the place was PACKED. Evidently, the “old people” got up a heck of a lot earlier than I did.

There were a handful of quick speeches about “The Greatest Generation” and such, then it was time to load the plane up and head to D.C.

Above - the guy leaning at the podium is Rick Tupper - one of the Directors. Later on, I would learn that he is an organizational genius. The guys in the tan jackets and funky farmerʼs caps are the WW2 veterans. The guys in uniform by the flags are an “Honor Guard” in the uniforms of each branch of service. Right - Governor Mike Rounds showed up to visit the Vets, too. So did South Dakota senator John Thune. Not shown - the three women who also went along the Honor Flight. WW2 Vets arenʼt all “guys.”

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

So, we trundled through security and boarded the plane. 12 medical people 34 Guardians 10 Honor Flight coordinators AND 106 WW2 veterans.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

This is what it looked like from my mid-plane seat looking back. The blue shirts are Vets. The red shirts are Guardians. We got the aisle seats so we could help the Vets with their overhead bags.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

By the look on some of the Vet’s faces, it was obvious some were wondering what they were getting into. Kinda’ like how it must have felt back in ’41. Or ’42.

Or ’43...

The plane was pretty quiet en route. Of course we were all tired, but no one slept.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

The quiet ended when the Vets exited the Jetway at Dulles Airport in D.C. They were greeted by a crowd of people, cheering, shaking hands, waving flags... This is the only shot I have of this moment. It’s missing about 9/10s of the rest of the people in the area. You can see by the look on the Vet’s face, the reception was pretty huge...

...which was fitting because the itinerary was huge, too!

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Honor Flight of South Dakota provides a full agenda. In 36 hours, we were to tour: U.S. Air Force Memorial Iwo Jima Memorial Arlington National Cemetery

This photo was taken in between the Air Force Memorial Arcs.

Formal dinner WW2 Memorial Lincoln Memorial Vietnam Memorial Korean War Memorial U.S. Navy Memorial FDR Memorial Air & Space Museum

Wow, eh?

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Weather was gorgeous in D.C. At the Iwo Jima Memorial, we took a group photo. See the guy in the first row with the triangle-flag case? It represents all the soldiers who didn’t come home. That flag was carried wherever we went and the Vets would touch it to remember a lost friend. It was touched a lot. RIGHT: A Quad Cities Honor Flight was there, too. I love the back of this guyʼs shirt “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a Veteran.” Thatʼs no Redneck wise-crack, by the way. In case you want proof, start with Nanking, 1937 and follow the dots through Poland, France, The Philippines, the London Blitz... © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was rather sobering. To think that someone would die without knowledge or due... But the Guards are equally mysterious. Did you know they take a life-long oath to never touch alcohol and are required to know the locations of at least 300 soldiers buried at the Arlington National Cemetery? And they do this 24 hours a day, rain, shine, blizzard or hurricane.

Do yourself a favor and look up the “Tomb Guards” on the internet. They are no mere tourist attractions, that’s for sure.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

We got to our hotel around 6pm and prepared for a banquet dinner. Some of the Vets told stories of their service after dessert. But really, everyone just wanted to hit the hay. We were pretty amped to see the WW2 Memorial first-thing the next morning.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

This is my hotel room. One of the Honor Flight team leaders said that Vets often take pictures of their hotel rooms because they can’t get over the idea that they get six pillows all to themselves. For people who grew up in the Depression, 6-pillow beds, “Tea Berry” soap, in-room Starbucks coffee and “soothing body gel” has to be over-the-top. By the way, no fewer than 5 of the Westin staff were waiting out front to shake hands with the Vets and say, “Welcome to the Westin, Sir.” That was classy. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

A good thing about traveling with “old people” is that lights are out at 10pm.

I guess by 88 years of age, momʼs words have sunk home: “Get a good nightʼs sleep!”

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Good morning! First ones there! The WW2 Memorial was another good time for a group shot. I couldn’t get my head around the fact 60 years had to pass before building it. And to think - these people were the Vanguard of the free world against militaristic Japan and nazi Germany.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

This is Edmond and his niece Corrie. He landed at Normandy and fought in all the major European engagements until VE Day. He remembers seeing German tanks firing at his unit and jumping into foxholes. I wonder if any American will ever see an enemy tank again. I hope not.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

This is Larry. He was in Army Air Corps Logistics in the South Pacific. He “...handed fighter pilots their pay checks.” Behind him, each gold star represents 100 Americans killed in combat for a total of 400,000. I asked Larry if he thought the Memorial reflected his own pride of service and he answered, “I just think a lot about the people on that wall of stars.”

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

These two jokers decided to show up in their service uniforms. The clothes are authentic. They’re both named Edward. Edward on the left was a medic with the 13th Airborne. Edward on the right was a “ball gunner” in a B-17 bomber with the 381st BG. They must have had a gajillion photos taken of them. BUT! Outside the WW2 Memorial, Edward was mobbed by a bunch of loud... Left: Edwardʼs uniform “gets out” every once in while but not very often. It was in immaculate condition. Right: Edwardʼs flight jacket has seen a lot of wear over the years and it shows. His B-17ʼs name, “Patches” is still faintly visible on the back of his jacket. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

...MUSICIANS FROM ALABAMA. They couldn’t get over the fact that Edward’s jacket was real. Edward loved the attention. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com

Then, it was onto the Lincoln Memorial.


Honor Flight

My Trip

This is Wendell at the Lincoln Memorial. I knew him prior to Honor Flight because I drew the B-25 that he flew in China/Burma.

It’d been

raining, hence the plastic pancho. He’s looking outward at the Washington Monument about a mile away. Just after I took this photo, I asked him what he was thinking about and he answered: “That I fear I’ve seen our Golden Age but that I hope our best is yet to come.”

He was referring to the United States.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Next stop was the U.S. Navy Memorial. At the museum there, a Guardian found a WW2-era piece of ship equipment and said, “Wow. This stuff is ancient!. Things have got to be totally different now, don’t you think?” Later, the bubbling water over the steps made me think of lyrics from a 1981 Talking Head’s song: You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack You may find yourself in another part of the world You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife You may ask yourself: well... how did I get here?

And I thought more about what Wendell was thinking...

But, I digress. Sorry’bout that.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

We headed off to the Air&Space Museum and then it was time to go to our own Airplane and return home. We were still tired, but the mood was light and happy. The Vets had had a good day and we Guardians did a pretty good job of Guarding. At least that’s what the Vets said because we were thanked a gagillion times. Which of course, was so NOT the point.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

About an hour before we were to land, Rick called out “Mail Call!” and handed out letters written by area school kids. This is Clarence’s letter. A 4th grade girl thanked him for “...beating off the bad guys.” I teased Clarence that he was back to cluttering the refrigerator door with art projects. He replied that he’d never had any kids. But he thought hanging the card up just the same was still a good idea.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

We got to our gate late and deplaning took a long time. The Vets were bushed and not moving very fast. Christopher was tired and asked for a wheelchair ride out of the gate area. That’s my hand “on the tiller.” Chris was at Pearl Harbor, btw. It’s one thing to learn about history from a book, but it’s another to learn from someone who was there. “You know, on December 6, any one of (my unit) would have thought you were crazy if you would have said, ‘Tomorrow, you’re going to be bombed and the Arizona* sunk!‘ But there I was, watching it happen the next day.”

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Rick wanted us all to go down the gateway to the airport lobby as a group. My camera wasn’t at-the-ready like it should have been. Suffice it to state, when we got to the top of the escalators, the cheers from below sounded like a home-team that just won the Trophy. Chris shook about 30 hands in about twice as many seconds and was repeatedly thanked, again and again... A few tears, family & friends....

...and we all went home. Their Honor Flight was finished.

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Since then, I’ve been asked by many people, “What was it like!?” Well... Honor Flight wasn’t a vacation because I worked harder than I had in a long time. Honor Flight wasn’t fun because underneath it all, the spirit of War remained. Instead, Honor Flight was more...

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

...Honor Flight was more thought provoking. On one hand, I wondered if we - the descendant generations had properly valued the wisdom of experience contained inside those Twilight lives.

On the other, I wondered if we - the nation would ever work so selflessly and supportively on a common goal like the Vets did in WW2.

What do you think?

Š John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

The following veterans, historians and enthusiasts made this presentation possible. WW2 Veterans Wendell Hanson Claude Hone Alden Rigby John Forrette, Sr. Howard Jensen and 16 million others.

Photo and art credits: © John Mollison Wendell Hanson U.S. Naval Archives

Door-openers Hollie Ashworth Joe Noah and The Preddy Memorial Foundation The Dakotas Region Porsche Club Rick Tupper Craig Hagen Eric M. James M. Dave & Linda S. Craig H. Rick W. Jim L. Terry B. John F. Keith E. Ed F. Jane Z. Grace and Beauty My wife My family

This is my thinking-friend Wendell again, August, 1941. In his photo album, he wrote: “22 years old today. My 4 years as a Camp Counselor is about to close...next month, I will enlist.” Wendellʼs been a “thinker” all his life, I guess.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Honor Flight

My Trip

Oh. One more thing. I carried along a patch that belonged to my buddy Earl. He was a fighter pilot. Born into utter poverty in Wilcoe, West Virginia, he fantasized about someday learning to fly out of his Depression-era coal town. He did, all the way to China. Earl was keenly aware that “bad things can cause good things to happen.” So, I toasted Earl at each monument knowing that he’d laugh at the irony of it. Earl died in 2009. I think of him often.

© John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com

Honor Flight - My Story  

This year, I've been fortunate to be a part of the Honor Fli...