For two Clarke County veterans, it was the trip of a lifetime.
Tom O’Neall of Murray and Billie Chase of Osceola were among a large group of World War II and Korean War veterans who toured Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, as part of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight (EIHF).
The veterans, along with guardians and staff members from the EIHF, left Cedar Rapids early in the morning, toured the city and it’s memorials. They returned at approximately 11 p.m. and were greeted by nearly 1,000 well-wishers.
Chase, 88, served in the Pacific in World War II from 1944 to 1946.
He said the honor flight was “very good.”
“It’s a rewarding experiencing,” Chase said. “It was very great.”
Chase got to see the Iwo Jima, Air Force and World War II national memorials. However, the honor flight was eventful for him for other reasons.
During the plane ride to the nation’s capital, Chase fainted and spent the morning in an emergency room. He attributed the fainting to the change in the plane’s air pressure.
Chase missed the morning tours, but was able to join the group later in the day.
“By mid-afternoon I was back with the group,” he said, “but I didn’t see all of the things, but I got to see a lot.”
Members of the honor flight were touring Washington, D.C., during the time of the government shutdown, which meant the war memorials were supposed to be closed to the public.
However, the honor flight veterans didn’t have many issues accessing them.
Chase said his group had “no trouble” getting into the memorials.
“Some of the things didn’t have any people around like they would have,” he said.
O’Neall, 87, served in the United States Army from 1945 to 1947 in Korea.
“It was wonderful. I thought it was real good,” he said of the honor-flight experience.
There was also a lot of help available to the veterans who were on the honor flight, O’Neall added.
He discussed memorials that were closed because of the shutdown and couldn’t be accessed, such as the Lincoln Memorial.
“All that was open, we pretty much saw,” O’Neall said.
As for O’Neall’s favorite memorial, it was hard for him to choose just one.
“I don’t know, it was all really good I thought. ... Everything I saw I thought was wonderful,” he said.
As for advice for other veterans who are thinking about going on honor flights, O’Neall said, “I think if they can go, they should go.”