Ken Silver from the Northside Church (Walla Walla, Wash.) and Paul Hellie from the University Church (College Place, Wash.), both Korean War veterans, flew to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8 for a two-day, all-expense-paid trip arranged by the Honor Flight organization.
Silver and Hellie were part of a group of 90 veterans (45 World War II vets and 45 Korean War vets) from Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho who flew from Spokane, Wash., to Washington, D.C. “We had a guardian who made sure we were safe on the trip,” explains Hellie. Those serving as guardians paid their own expenses and took time off to travel with Honor Flight. Carrie Johnson, who works for the sheriff’s office, served as guardian for Silver and Hellie.
Hellie served in the Navy as a combatant on the USS Taussit. He was deployed three times, serving three years, nine months and 16 days — from age 19 to 23. To go on the Honor Flight tour was very touching. “We had a good time," Hellie says. "We were just like a bunch of brothers from the start. Being with the group was the most important thing.”
The group visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witnessed the changing of the guard. The Marine Corps (Iwo Jima) Monument and the Air Force Monument were seen after their arrival Wednesday afternoon, and that evening the group was honored at a special banquet. Thursday they visited other monuments and museums, including the Women’s Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Navy Memorial.
At the Korean War Veterans Memorial, a young park ranger asked Hellie about the ribbons on his hat. The ranger knew nothing about the Korean War, and Hellie was able to share with him.
The memorial that stands out for Silver was the Korean War Memorial, where fresh flowers are placed every day by the Korean Embassy staff. who are forever indebted to people like Silver and Hellie for their freedom. If not for this “Forgotten War,” they would have been like North Korea. “What really touched me,” says Silver, "was a young boy in Spokane who made survival bracelets for all 90 veterans, using his own money. And in Washington, D.C., a little kid, no more than 9 years old, broke away from his mom to run up to me and hug me and say thank you.”
The whole experience was very touching for Silver and Hellie and all the veterans. “I can’t put it into words,” says Silver. “I can’t express the feeling it gave me to see the people I met on this flight.”
This once-in-a-lifetime high spot for them was a time they felt the respect and honor given them by the country and people they had served.