By Rachel Howe
When asked, World War II veteran Albert Vosbein can recite the exact amount of time he served in the U.S. Army. “Three years and 41 days,” he remembers, the time etched into his memory. Vosbein’s life, like so many other members of “the Greatest Generation,” was irrevocably changed the day he enlisted when he was only 17 years old. He told the recruiter he was 19, so he wouldn’t need permission from his mother.
World War II veteran Carl Johnson still carries his Parachute Log Record in his wallet, given to him on D-Day, during the Normandy invasion. In it are inscribed the exact coordinates of his drop, along with a photograph of himself in uniform, and another of his wife. Johnson was drafted within three months of his 18th birthday. He became a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.
Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization, set out to find veterans like Vosbein and Johnson, and thank them for their service to our nation, seeking to offer “honor and closure” to some of our greatest heroes. Honor Flight’s mission is “To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.” Since its inception in 2005, Honor Flight Network has flown 159,703 veterans, free of charge, to enjoy an assisted tour of Washington, D.C.
Vosbein and Johnson, along with five other veterans residing in the Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veterans Home in Floresville, have participated in an Honor Flight. Johnson was the first to experience this in 2015. This year, Vosbein and five other veterans, including Tressie Aldridge — a World War II nurse — attended the Honor Flight this May as a group. During the weekend trip, the veterans were thanked personally by senators and congressmen, visited the national memorials, and reminisced with other veterans — all completely free of charge.
“Oh man, that was heaven,” Vosbein said of the trip. “That was beautiful, going to Washington. To see all the monuments and the people and the congressmen.”
Vosbein recounted a meeting with George P. Bush, the Texas Land Commissioner and veteran, and chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board, who welcomed them and accompanied them on the tour. What was his favorite point of the trip? “Oh, all of it,” he stated with glittering eyes and a laugh. “I couldn’t pick one.”
For many veterans, the Honor Flight is the final chance our nation has to thank them for their service, and show them how they will never be forgotten.
For more information on the Honor Flight Network, and to learn how you can help the 21,032 veterans still on a waiting list, visit www.honorflight.org or call 937-521-2400.