By Mary Beth of Allsup
In September, Fred Harres was chosen to participate in a once in a lifetime event—a visit to our nation’s capitol and a tour of its many monuments, war memorials and tributes to military veterans. The long day trip was courtesy of the Illinois Land of Lincoln Honor Flight for veterans.
Mr. Harres took advantage of the opportunity and it’s an experience he won’t soon forget.
I know this, because Fred Harres, 83, is my father.
Dad enlisted in the Army in 1953. The Korean War was winding down at the time and he served in Germany for three years as a water treatment specialist. He wasn’t involved in combat, but he did have a few exciting moments.
Like the time when his unit was on maneuvers and his tent burst into flames in the middle of the night. He and his buddies managed to get out of the tent and start dousing the flames, but then Dad realized that one man was stuck in his sleeping bag and couldn’t get out. Dad was able to go back inside the tent and carry his friend to safety moments before the fiery tent collapsed.
The Honor Flight was made up of 80 World War II, Korea and Vietnam war veterans that traveled to Washington, D.C., from Springfield, Illinois, on a charter flight. My sisters and I drove Dad to the Springfield airport very early in the morning and we were there when it returned later that night. Some of the veterans used walkers, some were in wheelchairs and others, like Dad, were able to get around without help.
I don’t think anyone expected the wild scene that erupted in the terminal as the veterans left the airplane. There was an organized parade, complete with a band and a color guard and dignitaries that welcomed the former troops back home. There were many hundreds of people lined up at the airport; so many people that it took eight volunteers to control the traffic.
It was very emotional, especially for the Vietnam veterans, because they sure didn’t have receptions like this when they came home from their war. Dad was one of the last men off the plane, but when he did, he had a huge smile on his face.
And he still smiles today when he remembers the long overdue homecoming. And so do I.
I know this little story is a little late for Veterans Day, but I don’t think we need a special day to remember and honor our veterans.
Allsup has its own way to honor these heroes. Learn more about our Veterans Disability Appeals Service.