Harry Nicholas stood next to his daughter, Toni Glosson of Clovis, at the World War II Memorial, taking in the sun’s warm rays and the experience of seeing the structure for the first time.
Nicholas, 94, spent four years serving in that war, “a time of great suffering,” Glosson said. She choked up as she spoke, wiping tears from her eyes. Her father kept a smile on his face, just as he always has.
The war “made me who I am,” said Nicholas, who came home and established a successful farming operation in Orange Cove. “I got to travel to different countries and meet different people – and serve.”
Click for more images from Tuesday’s tour of the memorials, set to lyrics from “We’ll Meet Again.”
Nicholas and 67 other veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War from California’s central region visited the World War II Memorial on Tuesday morning as a part of the 12th Central Valley Honor Flight, according to the trip itinerary. It was a passion for service that brought the veterans, their guardians and the trip’s organizers together.
“I feel intense gratitude. I’m so grateful for how amazing and organized this trip was,” Glosson said. “It’s a privilege to still have my dad at my age.”
The national honor flight program, established in 2005, gives veterans a chance to visit their memorials in Washington in an all-expense-paid trip. The program has 130 hubs in 42 states. Almost 160,000 veterans have taken part in trips since its creation.
I wanted to serve my country. It’s like a continuation of active duty.
Al Perry, an Army veteran making his last Central Valley Honor Flight as the organization’s president
The Central Valley Honor Flight has raised about $2.3 million and sent close to 850 veterans to the nation’s capital since it was created in 2013, said Central Valley Honor Flight President Al Perry, who has been with the program since its inception.
This honor flight was Perry’s last, but he said his time in the program had been “extraordinary.”
“I wanted to serve my country,” said Perry, an Army veteran. “It’s like a continuation of active duty. There’s no possible way I could have said no.”
Perry said many of the veteran’s guardians on honor flights were also veterans. Mark Hopkins, another trip leader, added that those who didn’t serve, including himself, think that helping the veterans on the trip is the least they can do.
“There’s a sense of duty to serve” them, said Hopkins, who has participated in nine honor flights. “It’s my way of serving.”
The group planned to eat lunch at the National Air and Space Museum, drive past the White House and visit Arlington National Cemetery and its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, according to the trip itinerary. On Wednesday, their itinerary will take them to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.
Jim Brockett, a Korean War veteran who served from 1950 to 1952 and knew many who were killed, including some of his close friends, continued in public service after returning to his hometown of Selma. He was the city’s manager, as well as a councilman, mayor and police chief, a position he held for 25 years.
“He wore a lot of hats,” said David Arevalo, Brockett’s son-in-law.
Brockett, who never had been to Washington or the memorial before joining the Honor Flight, said seeing the memorial was an amazing experience.
“I’m deeply proud,” Brockett said. “Being able to come to something like this … you feel it in your heart.”
Jessica Campisi: 202-383-6055, @jessiecampisi
Central Valley Honor Flight returns
The 12th Central Valley Honor Flight is scheduled to return to a welcome home procession in the Fresno Yosemite International Airport terminal Wednesday at approximately 6 p.m. The time is variable (earlier or later) depending on cross-country flight.