MOUNT VERNON — Local World War II veterans who have participated in the Honor Flights to Washington D.C. were treated to a reception Saturday afternoon, gathering to renew friendships and exchange stories about their experiences.
Honor Flight is a national organization which raises money and provides free trips to Washington for veterans to visit the World War II Memorial. In Columbus, the flights are organized by Bill and Bobby Richards, who came to the reception to meet again with the friends they have made with the trips.
The Richards told the veterans that they may not recall all the veterans’ names, having escorted more than 2,500 on flights to Washington, but they remembered everyone and, said Mrs. Richards, “You don’t get to leave without a hug.”
Every veteran who attended said the flights were wonderful. The reaction of Preston “Mac” McCullum of Mount Vernon was typical: “It was all I hoped for and more so. When I got home I was so wound up and couldn’t sleep. I had to tell my wife all about it.”
McCullum had brought along a number of pictures from his service during the war with 629th Medical Clearing Co., which for a time was attached to the U.S. Third Army and the 118th Evacuation Hospital. One of their stops was the notorious Nazi death camp Buchenwald and many of the pictures were ones his captain had taken at the camp and shared with him.
Bob Tucker of Danville, an Army veteran who was training as a tank driver as the war in Europe ended and served as an instructor until Japan surrendered, took a fight Oct. 1, 2010, said he was struck by how many people he had known for years who have participated in the flights and was clearly enjoying the afternoon talking with some of them. On the same flight was Dick Sechrist of Mount Vernon. Sechrist served in the Navy for 14 months but never made it out of the country.