Honor flights add Korean War vets

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Charlotte Huntley | May 13, 2015

DELAVAN TOWNSHIP — It's just one day to honor veterans, but what a day.

Bob Johnson, who lives in the town of Delavan with his wife, Annelle, served as a forward observer with the 14th Infantry in 1952 and 1953 during the Korean War.

More than 60 years later, Johnson joined 86 men and two women who served in World War II and the Korean War on April 18 when the group flew to Washington, D.C., from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

The oldest traveler was 101, one was 991/2 and one was 98. The mean age was 87.

Honor Flight Network recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them at no cost to see their own memorial. Top priority is given to World War II and terminally ill veterans from all wars and has been expanded to include veterans from Korea and Vietnam.

The group that flies from Milwaukee is organized by Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, one of five regional sites in Wisconsin.

Johnson and his son, Kris, who lives in Elkhorn and accompanied his father on the trip, drove to Milwaukee at 3 a.m. to make their 5 a.m. flight.

“They gave us a good breakfast when we got to the airport,” Johnson said.

Once the group boarded the plane, they settled in for the trip, some taking naps because they all got up early.

Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., the group boarded buses for the trip to the monuments.

The national honor flight visits are a well-known and respected event, and traffic moved over as a motorcycle police officer led the buses through the city to the monuments.

Veterans visited the Vietnam Wall, the WWII monument, the Korean monument, Iwo Jima Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial and the changing of the guard by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, including a drive through Arlington Cemetery.

“My favorite was planting the flag at Iwo Jima from the second World War,” Johnson said. “It was something else. They were all impressive, but that was the most impressive as far as I'm concerned.”

The entire trip from home to D.C. and back again took 22 hours.

Tired but happy, the group was greeted in the terminal by 200 troops in dress uniform, from every branch of the service, who saluted as the veterans went by.

An estimated 4,000 people lined the hallways as well, including schoolchildren, cheerleaders and bands. Friends and relatives all hoisted signs, applauded and shouted their thanks, congratulations and “USA.”

Each Korean veteran received the book “Forgotten No More: The Korean War Veterans Memorial Story” by Carol M. Highsmith and Ted Landphair.

Johnson, who retired as an administrator at Woods School in Lake Geneva, received 78 cards and letters from former students, relatives and friends, which touched Johnson immensely.

Brennon Blain, Annelle's son and Bob's stepson, who was a master welder in the Air National Guard, designed a “Challenge Coin” to honor fellow warriors and show respect.

Blain has given out only five of these coins, one each to King Abdullah II of Jordan, Jordanian Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Mansour al Jabour, Staff Sgt. Ahmed Natallen of the No. 2 Squadron of the Royal Jordanian Air Force; Maj. John Smith and Brennon's best friend, Pat Barnett.

Now part of a select group, Bob Johnson is the sixth recipient.

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