When Korean War veteran Jim Edwards of Jamesport, MO, and 55 other veterans aboard Honor Flight arrived in Washington, D.C. in 2016, they were met by a crowd of people who applauded, shook their hands, and thanked them for their service.
“It was pretty emotional,” Jim said. “It was a long day and exhausting — but well worth it.”
The group had to be at the airport by 4 a.m. for the American Airlines flight. They left Kansas City at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2016, and arrived back at 10:30 p.m. the same day.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. Honor Flight transports our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at the memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
Of Jim’s group of 55 veterans, 30 were in wheelchairs. Each veteran was to have a guardian who assisted them. Jim’s guardian was his daughter, Jill. Jill also assisted another veteran, Dean Weddle, 90, of Allendale, after Dean’s own guardian couldn’t make the trip.
After arriving at Reagan Airport, the group got on two tour buses led by a motorcycle cop who buzzed them through all the stoplights to the World War II memorial. There they saw the laying of the wreath ceremony. Next was the Korean and Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. A group photo was taken at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Then they departed for Arlington National Cemetery to view the “Changing of the Guard” at the tomb of the unknown soldier. There are over 400,000 graves at Arlington. Lastly they viewed the Air Force Memorial, which is a fairy new addition. Jim said the tour bus drove by the Pentagon building and also the White House.
Jim is a veteran of the Korean War, having served from 1951-1955. He was an SK2 in the Navy, stationed in San Diego. He was in the service for nine months when he married his childhood sweetheart, Janene. Two of their four children were born in San Diego. Janene passed away 11 years ago and they lost a daughter.
Jim did not know any of the other veterans on the Honor Flight. But he did know the pilot, Jared Williams, the son of a family friend from Jamesport. Jared’s grandfather was aboard a World War Two destroyer at Leyte Gulf, the second battle of the Philippine Sea and the largest naval battle in history. Jared was proud to display his grandfather’s honor flag in the window of the plane. Jim and Jill got some special treatment since they knew the pilot. They were ushered first on the airplane and got to sit in the cockpit for some pictures.
In Washington, D.C., Jim was also surprised and pleased that a grandson, Bryce Hughes, who works at an IRS building, came to the memorials to visit with him.
The group of veterans arrived back home at about 10:30 p.m.
“When we arrived in Kansas City, there were two- or three-hundred people lined up to greet us,” Jim said. “They cheered and banged drums and gave us lots of farewell hugs. I came back with videos, pictures, and wonderful memories.”