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Honor Flight: Air Force Memorial brings back memories for local family

Posted at 8:43 AM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 11:43:51-04

At the end of October, KSBY Daybreak Anchor, Neil Hebert, joined Honor Flight Central Coast California on their trip to Washington D.C. Honor Flight takes veterans on an all expenses paid trip to visit military memorials in their honor, each accompanied by a guardian that pays their own way. Over the next few days leading up to Veterans Day, KSBY will be sharing the experiences from some of the 25 veterans who joined Neil on the trip.

Here’s a short timeline of what the trip entailed:

A dinner and awards ceremony honoring the veterans with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a visit to several memorials including ones dedicated to the Air Force, Marines, Military Women’s Memorial, those that served in Vietnam, Korea, World War II, a trip the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

A few of the veterans were accompanied by family members acting as guardians for the trip, and some were veterans themselves. The Air Force memorial was a special stop for Air Force veterans, George Patterson and his daughter, Tracy.

“Pride. It's nothing but pride,” said George Patterson, retired Air Force

And there’s no reason not to be prideful. The Air Force motto runs deep in the Patterson family: “Aim High… Fly-Fight-Win.”

“We're proud to say that we were Air Force. Our whole family is Air Force. My dad, me, my son, my brother: We have 84 years of active service between us,” said Tracy Patterson. “I'm an Air Force brat. I was raised seeing him in his service. We have so much in common that we have our own language.”

“It feels great because every time we see something, it brings memories to her, what she’s done. She sees something that I’ve done, so we talk a lot about that,” said George.

“It's super humbling to be here because there's so many people that we know who were in the Air Force, and people that I served with who are no longer here,” said Tracy. “To know that now we have our own memorial, it's really special.”

Seeing the inscription wall, bronze Honor Guard sculpture, and three stainless steel spires in-person made this trip one to remember for the Pattersons.

“You see it on TV but being here, it's just unbelievable how all this is made. It’s magnificent,” said George.

Delano Valek joined the Air Force in 1953 and became a flight engineer. Valek toured in several states including Japan and Korea during his service.

“I can just still envision being in a cockpit, running up the aircraft in Okinawa. I can envision myself on the flight line with all my buddies there,” said Valek.

Valek has been taking photos since his time in the military. Now, nearly 60 years later, he had the chance to snap some of the memorial honoring his service.

“I pull out the pictures I took when I was in Okinawa. I look at those, look at my buddies at that time; having a camera and being able to have all these, so you can have them forever,” said Valek. “When I get home, I can remember this opportunity, and just how great it was to spend the time with all my fellow airmen and all the veterans that are on this trip.”

The Honor Flights to our nation’s capital are quick; the most recent Honor Flight took off October 24th from the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport. The veterans returned home two days later.

If you are a veteran or know of one that would like to take an Honor Flight with Honor Flight Central Coast California, click here to apply.