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Honor Flight allows veterans to embrace the past and look toward the future

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - What’s in a story? Can you breathe life into it? Can you make it live long after you’re gone?

From Oct. 1-3, over a hundred West Texans traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of the 2021 Permian Basin Honor Flight to see stories…hundreds of thousands of them.

“It may be names to somebody else, but when you say the name of somebody you were with…I’m sorry…it’s a person,” Vietnam veteran Jimmy Barton said. “They may not be here, but they’re still remembered.”

Remembered long after they’re gone. There were no World War II veterans on the flight for the first time, yet their memorial ensures the sacrifice isn’t forgotten.

“I hope that there’s healing now,” said Rep. August Pfluger (R, TX-11). I hope that they understand how much we care about them.”

It was also the first time the dozens of Vietnam veterans who made the trip experienced that care.

“It just feels really great. It warms your heart,” Vietnam veteran Dee Phillips said.

Many of their friends never experienced that warmth. A wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial acted as a reflection into the next plane.

“To know what they had to give up. And I didn’t have to give anything up. I just had to make it home safe,” Barton said. “I have never had anything this good happen to me.”

Their individual stories are written in stone in Washington and Arlington, where they rest with their brothers and sisters, often separated by a few feet and hundreds of years. It’s a way for the dead to bring closure to the living.

“We can move on with our story,” said clinical social worker Jan Lentz, who works with veterans. “We’re not frozen back in time in Vietnam, but we can move on.”

Senator and WWII veteran Bob Dole once said, “It’s faith that gives you the strength to endure—faith, that won’t allow you to give up; faith that manifests itself in the ferocious determination to take the next step—the one that everyone else says is impossible.”

“It’s helped me get a lot of things out that’s been pent up for 50 years,” said Vietnam veteran Sandy Stilwell. “It’s helped me out psychologically more than any of the programs that I’ve been through.”

Now, their lives can continue, turning the pages of the past to work on a story that isn’t finished.

“Of my 77 years, it’s probably the biggest honor I’ve ever had put on my shoulders,” Barton said. “Worth every penny.”

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