Everett’s Bob Hilt, another Korean War veteran, wrote in that April 29 letter that he had just returned from an Honor Flight. “They treat veterans like royalty,” Hilt wrote. “It was very humbling to be received and treated so well.”
Rogers feels the same way. He has nothing but praise for the arrangements, his Alaska Airlines flight, his guide and the celebratory meals. Veterans travel at no cost. If they are accompanied by a family member, that person pays $1,000, Peavey said. Those without someone are provided with an escort.
Mary Ellen Baker, of Bellevue, was Rogers’ volunteer guide. “I couldn’t get lost because she wouldn’t let me,” he said. “She was simply an outstanding person.”
Puget Sound Honor Flight provides four trips per year — two in the spring, two in the fall — each with 50 to 60 veterans. This year’s final tour left Sea-Tac Saturday and will return Monday.
Applicants are granted trips “in order of the conflict,” Peavey said, with those who served in World War II first in line. Veterans who suffer from life-threatening illnesses also have priority, she said.
“Everywhere they go, there are people to shake their hands and clap for them,” Peavey said. “And there’s a big homecoming at the end. Especially with the guys from the Korean War, they never got a welcome home. The Vietnam vets got an anti-welcome.
“So many put their stuff in their basement and never visited it again,” she said.
Family members are invited to the surprise homecoming at Sea-Tac, and Peavey said a representative of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle is there to honor those who served in the Korean War.
During his trip, Rogers said, “nobody talked about the war.” Conversations centered around what the veterans were seeing and experiencing. Rogers liked the Korean War Veterans Memorial, with its 19 oversized statues representing different branches of the military. “They called it the forgotten war, and it really was,” Rogers said.
Visiting Arlington National Cemetery drove home the monumental sacrifices of war. “I could look in every direction and see grave markers,” Rogers said.
There’s no ignoring the threat of another Korean war. On Wednesday, a Russian news agency quoted North Korea’s foreign minster as saying that President Trump “has lit the wick of war.” North Korean nuclear tests have been met by tough language from the president, who has labeled that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as “Rocket Man.”
Outside his south Everett condo, Rogers flies his collection of American flags. He even has a replica of the Moultrie flag, flown during the American Revolution. On his car are images of the U.S. flag, a Korean War veteran sticker, and another one that says “Dump Trump.” Rogers said he believes the president “is one of the most dangerous people.” Even so, “I actually would be in favor of wiping out Kim Jong Un,” he said.
“War’s a terrible thing,” Rogers said.
During Honor Flight trips, “we try to stay apolitical,” Peavey said. Some veterans have been reluctant to stop at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, she said. Whatever their beliefs, they all served.
Peavey and Denise Rouleau, co-director of Puget Sound Honor Flight, want veterans of World War II and the Korean War to know they aren’t forgotten. “One of our veterans said it best,” Rouleau said. “He said, ‘I didn’t think anybody would care anymore. But they do.’”
“We want to get the word out about it,” Peavey said. “Time is of the essence.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
The nonprofit Honor Flight Network provides free trips to Washington, D.C., for military veterans, including World War II and Korean War survivors and other senior veterans who might be seriously ill. Information on Puget Sound Honor Flight: http://pugetsound honorflight.org or call 253-303-1130.