For the first time in over two years, Honor Flight Central Coast California took off from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport Monday morning with 23 local veterans aboard.
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that flies U.S. military veterans to Washington D.C. to see the war memorials in our nation’s capitol at no cost to the veterans. Each veteran has a guardian alongside them during the three-day trip to D.C.
KSBY’s Neil Hebert sat down with 99-year-old Navy veteran from Santa Maria, Jim Porter, to chat about his excitement for his Honor Flight.
“Patricia says you haven’t been sleeping much because you keep talking about it,” said Greg Porter, Jim’s son.
Jim is modest when it comes to rehashing his military experiences, but is he proud of his service to our country?
“Oh, of course! You’re proud of most things you do, except chase girls,” said Jim with a laugh.
The Santa Maria vet is making the Honor Flight a family affair; his son, Greg, is accompanying him in D.C.
“It’s a family thing. He’s going to push me around in a wheelchair. I tell him where to go. He’ll do that while I’m having fun,” said Jim.
At 99, Jim’s time in the service was 80 years ago.
“This plane came in over my head, close enough where I could’ve lit a match under the wing. That far from hitting me,” said Jim, recalling a time during the war a Japanese plane crashed into part of the ship he was aboard and put it out of commission.
At that point, he was hopeful they were heading back to the States.
“We thought, ‘Ha ha! We’re going home.’ We didn’t go back to Hawaii like we planned,” said Jim. “It was a big disappointment. Anybody in war wants to get out of it because, hell, you might get killed!”
But eventually, Jim made his way back to the States and settled down. Now, nearly eight decades later, he gets his Honor Flight.
“I’m expecting to be getting a lot of positive recognition. He gets a lot of the ‘thank you for your service’ type comments. It’s really nice. It makes you feel proud,” said Greg.
The trip concludes Wednesday, so the veterans have until then to check out the war memorials. We wondered if seeing them would strike up any memories of Jim’s service time.
“It could, yeah. It’s interesting. Even now, he comes up with something new that I hadn’t heard before. I thought I heard it all, and he’ll come up with something new. It’s interesting how the memory is when you’re thinking back 80 years.”
Another Navy veteran, Bob Perryman of San Luis Obispo, served in the Korean War and was stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii for the majority of his time in the military. While he says he was never sent overseas and into battle, he is proud of his service. Bob is excited to see the monuments in D.C.
“That’s what will be interesting. We’ll see everything,” said Bob. “That’s mainly what they’ll center on and do. We’ll see all the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. I look forward to it. It’s exciting. I’ve met a lot of good men already. I’ve met some friends.”
The flight is set to return to San Luis Obispo Wednesday night. The veterans are set to get a warm welcome from Welcome Home Military Heroes.