WW II vet thrilled to take Honor Flight

Published 4:06 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

It was the trip of a lifetime, a single day that was, in John Farmer’s words, “just awesome.”

Farmer, a WW II veteran, got to take part in the Covington Regional Honor Flight in early May. The Honor Flights give the quickly dwindling population of WW II vets the chance to visit the WW II Memorial and other historic sites in the nation’s capitol. The vets are honored and feted during this one long and very memorable day.

There was some concern over whether the 91-year-old Greenville vet would be up to the journey.

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“John’s been sick recently. We asked his doctor if it would be OK for John to take this trip, and he said, ‘By all means, let him go,'” said his wife, Sybil.

It was, as Farmer says, “a very stout” itinerary.

“We were at the airport at 5:30 a.m. that day . . . there was a big crowd at Washington Dulles International Airport waiting for us. I tell you, it brought tears to your eyes. So many people saying, ‘Thank you, glad to see you,'” he recalls.

Farmer, who was accompanied on the trip by his son-in-law, Larry, saw a familiar face in the crowd when they arrived in Washington, D.C. – his grandson, Brad, whom he had not seen in a year.

“It was just wonderful to be able to share the day with family,” Farmer says with a smile.

Watching the changing of the guard at the 643-acre Arlington National Cemetery was one of the trip’s biggest highlights for the local vet.

“Such beautiful precision. So solemn. Everything was silent and respectful. I swear, there must have been 1,000 people there, but you could have heard a pin drop,” he says with a faraway look in his eyes.

Viewing the WWII memorial with its Atlantic and Pacific sections and the many names inscribed there brought a lump to Farmer’s throat, as did the Korean War Memorial and its reflecting wall and the tribute to Iwo Jima.

“We also got to see the Lincoln Memorial, although the students had that one pretty well wrapped up. The only one we missed was the Viet Nam Memorial. We just couldn’t get it all in,” Farmer says.

It was Farmer’s first trip to Washington since the war, well before many of the memorials were built.

The experience was first class all the way, he says.

“They flew us on a 747, fed us three meals and had everything planned right down to the T. Everywhere we went, we had priority. The police would wave us through,” Farmer recalls.

When the group flew back into south Alabama, they received a hero’s welcome.

“There were probably 500 people there to greet us, Two fire trucks sprayed water over the plane in a salute. It was really something to see,” Farmer says.

“Nobody had to rock me to sleep that night. I was worn out. But I would tell anyone thinking of going to go. You won’t be sorry. You realize that people are proud of what these guys did. I saw signs that said, ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.'”

The Andalusia Chamber of Commerce sponsored the Covington Regional Honor Flight. The group is now looking into getting Korean vets involved in the flights, Farmer says.