Spirit of Alabama: Honor Flight offers veterans trip of a lifetime
For years, the Honor Flight Network has offered military veterans a big thank-you for their service: a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. that includes visits to major monuments and memorials dedicated to their service.
The latest of these flights offered Blount County veterans that trip. It’s extra special, Larry Baker said, because he served in the Vietnam War and did not receive the warm welcome-home of those who served in previous major conflicts.
“We call ourselves the Band of Brothers because people back here were against the war, so we were basically fighting for self-preservation over there,” Baker said.
Previously, Honor Flights served World War II veterans, but as their numbers dwindle veterans of Korea and Vietnam are getting their turn.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, they paused and remembered everyone who didn’t make it back as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment kept watch as they do 24 hours a day every day.
“It was a great honor to be able to participate in it,” Baker said. “I really don’t know why I was chosen, but it was the greatest honor I could have.”
At Arlington, one of the veterans slipped away from the group on an important mission. Duane Miller-Suchey lost his father in 1982, and at the time of the funeral, Joseph A. Miller III’s grave stood alone. In 2021, Miller’s grave is joined by many others. It took some time, but once Miller’s son found the right spot he took a moment and placed a bouquet of flowers and a small flag his wife, Mary, made for him.
A quiet and special moment, nearly 40 years in the making.
“It’s an honor just being here with the Honor Flight and to participate in doing that aspect, and then allowing me to do this was pretty amazing,” Miller-Suchey said.
At the Vietnam Memorial Wall, many Blount County veterans lingered, searching for the names of those they knew. Those they were there with when they died.
After a long, emotional day, the veterans were back home in Alabama with memories they’ll always hold dear.