Two area Veterans treated to historical flight to D.C.
By Robin Scott
The 2nd annual Texas Panhandle Honor Flight left Amarillo on October 7th with 151 passengers on board. About half of those were 80-somethings who had served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean War. The Veterans were invited to travel to Washington, D.C. on an all expenses paid visit to the nation’s Capitol. The three days and two nights trip included visiting the War Memorials honoring service members.
The American Airlines “Flagship Liberty,” a 737 aircraft bearing a large yellow ribbon on its tail, has the honor each year of flying the vets and guardian volunteers from Amarillo directly to Washington Reagan Airport, Washington, DC. At takeoff, the plane was further honored by the Amarillo Fire Department, which provided two water canon arches over the runway.
Two veterans from Dalhart were aboard Wednesday’s flight. Charles D. Bollinger traveled with his daughter and William H. Dopke traveled with his son. Both men are Veterans of World War II. Dopke noted, “I’m very excited to be going to Washington,” and Bollinger stated, “I haven’t been to D.C. in many years.” The rare opportunity to travel to the nation’s Capitol and visit all of the key memorials is a chance of a lifetime and both Bollinger and Dopke stated that they were very proud to be a part of the trip.
Inside the airport all of the Veterans were treated to breakfast, as they got ready for their flight. Cameras were flashing and videos were rolling as Gate 30 began to fill to capacity. Each participant was given a t-shirt, ball cap, tote bag, embroidered yellow ribbon and a lanyard with their military service designation. The guardian travelers were also provided with the same accessories, and as the large group boarded the plane they looked like a patriotic fraternity. The flight crew was noticeably excited. Many American Airlines employees that weren’t on the flight assisted in getting the group onboard the plane, and they waited long after to watch the plane take off.
Highlights for the trip included visits and wreath presentations at each of the War Memorials including the World War II Memorial, Korea Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. A special wreath ceremony was held to honor the casualties from the Global War on Terrorism at Arlington Cemetery. While in D.C., the entire group was treated to tours at the Pentagon, the Capitol and Walter Reed Hospital. Elected officials from the state of Texas attended special dinner functions honoring the Veterans.
The plane returned to Amarillo on Friday, October 9th. The whirlwind trip is likely something the guests will long remember. Their visit to Washington was reminiscent of their return from serving overseas during World War II as they were treated like heroes should be treated. Everyone that assisted as a guardian or with the crew was pleased to have been included in the endeavor. One flight attendant who stayed behind stated, “I feel as though we have just put celebrities on the plane! This is a very exciting day for us and I’m so glad to have been here for it.”