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Honor flight

Fox Run veterans tour nation’s capital

Created date

March 14th, 2018
Army nurse Emily Kresge took part in an Honor Flight with her fellow veterans at Fox Run.

Seven military veterans from Fox Run go on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Last fall, a group of seven military veterans from Fox Run took a very memorable trip to Washington, D.C. The residents participated in an Honor Flight coordinated by a nonprofit organization that honors veterans with trips to our nation’s capital. There, they spend a day visiting the memorials and monuments.

In recognition of their service, the vets on Honor Flights get VIP treatment. Police escorts accompany the groups on their tours of the capital so they can avoid traffic on their way to each monument, and people line the streets to clap and cheer for the veterans.

When the veterans return to their home airport, groups typically gather at the arrivals gate to give the service members another round of applause.

“It was an experience that I am so glad I went through, and I recommend it to anyone,” says Fox Run community member Emily Kresge, who served as an Army nurse in Okinawa during World War II. “After World War II, the soldiers were well received when they came home, but the Vietnam War, [returning troops] had such a bad reception at home. To have thousands of people saying thank you for your service and showing appreciation for what you did is really wonderful.”

Memorable memorial tour

When the Fox Run Honor Flight participants toured Washington, D.C., their stops included the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial.

“There were four buses of people from different organizations that do the Honor Flight,” Emily says. “It was wonderful—we had a police guard, and whenever we came to any intersection, all traffic stopped and we sailed right through.”

Emily says she was struck by the tremendous size of the Lincoln Memorial, particularly the structure that houses the statue. She also took note of how clean Washington appeared, saying that it looked as if the whole city “had just been swept.”

“It was absolutely fantastic,” she says. “The guides were very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic.”

Flight favors

Walt Banacki, another Fox Run veteran who participated in the recent Honor Flight, says the highlight of the trip for him was the package of letters he received on the flight home.

Each Honor Flight veteran gets a bundle of mail designed to be reminiscent of the overseas letters soldiers receive when they’re deployed.

Walt says he was touched by the letters thanking him for his service, particularly one that was drawn by the two-year-old son of a nurse at Ann Arbor Veterans Hospital.

He also enjoyed gathering with the many other veterans on the trip to take a group photo.

“The reason why it’s top on my list is that they gave us that picture on the return flight, and I brought it home and showed it to my wife. In less than a minute, she pointed out exactly where I was in the picture,” Walt says.

He also enjoyed visiting the monuments, which he says were “outstanding.”

He adds that the entire Honor Flight operation ran like “a well-greased machine.” The group rose at 3:30 a.m. to begin their whirlwind capital tour and didn’t return home until 11 p.m. that night, making for a long but exhilarating day—with a very memorable ending at the airport in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“There must have been 300 families that lined their civic center; through the hallways there was a continuous line of people on either side shaking your hand and giving you hugs,” Walt says.

Sticking it out together

When Walt graduated from high school, he and his friends all assumed they’d be drafted to serve in the Korean War. So the clever young men came up with a plan that would allow them to stick together while they served their country.

“Our philosophy was—we are going to go to Korea, it’s inevitable—so we said let’s join together so we can go together,” Walt recalls.

They interviewed with the different branches of the military in Flint, Mich., and ultimately the young men all decided to enlist in the Army. As luck would have it, their unit was never deployed, but they all remained on both active and reserve duty for many years. The group has remained close friends all their lives, and one of the men even stood up as the best man in Walt’s wedding.

“Collectively, our group contributed about 97 years of service,” Walt says.