The flight of a lifetime

Man urges veterans to take tribute trip

WATSONVILLE — Watsonville resident Don Spence served in the Korean War from 1953-55, serving overseas for 18 months just after the armistice was signed.

His time in the military gave him a deep appreciation for his fellow veterans, and he led local efforts to collect their stories for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

Spence added another chapter to his own story in April, when he went on an Honor Flight with 25 other veterans.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization was formed as a way to take aging veterans to the nation’s capital to see the monuments dedicated to them.

It was started in 2005 by Retired Air Force Captain Earl Morse, who realized after the National World War II Memorial was completed in 2004 that many WWII veterans would not be able to make the trip to see it.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day.

The Honor Flight program, for which veterans take chartered airline flights, grew from Morse’s offer to fly two of them.

At 85, Spence was the youngest veteran to participate. The majority on his flight served during the Korean War and in WWII.

The three-day trip was packed, with visits to several monuments, he said.

Spence said that Facebook paid the bill for the flight.

“Everyone has a wheelchair, including myself,” Spence said.

But Spence said that he was not looking for recognition when he told the Register-Pajaronian about his flight. Instead, he said he wanted his story to serve as a reminder to all veterans that they may be eligible to take their own flight.

“I want those who have not filled out an application to do it,” he said. “It was the flight of a lifetime. To be with a group of guys like that and share stories that parallel yours, it’s a story in itself.”


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