Ancil Shepherd, who served in World War II, and his son, Matthew Shepherd, and Albert Taylor, a veteran of the Korean War, and his guardian, Pat Carpenter, made the trip Sept. 20 with 200 other veterans and guardians from across the state.
While the trip to the monuments was exciting and interesting for the Danville veterans, it was the “welcome home” they got when they returned to the Louisville airport that night that was “amazing.” More than 1,000 people gathered at the airport to greet the plane on the return trip.
“As we walked into the terminal, people began yelling welcome home and started singing ‘God Bless America,’” said Taylor. “They began shaking our hands and hugging us.”
It was amazing, Taylor added. His wife, children and grandchildren were in the welcoming party.
It as when his daughter, Alberta, who was 1½ years old when he returned home after the war, yelled “Welcome Home, Daddy” that he became emotional. “I was not expecting that,” he said.
“I had not been welcome back home in 1952 when I returned from the war,” said Taylor. “This was the first time anyone welcomed me.”
Shepherd agreed. “When the plane landed in New York on July 4, 1946, nobody was there to greet me nor was anything said. I tossed my bag in a trash bin and came home.”
He said the 82nd Airborne Division, which landed in New York earlier, got all the welcome and a parade.
Taylor said he was mistreated and hurt after he came home after being in Korea. “It really helped me for someone to say ‘you went to war and fought for this country.’ This was the welcome home I needed, but it was 60 years later.”
Taylor was in the 25th Division, 14 Regiment Co. K, and was a platoon sergeant in the Army Infantry. Before the war, he was trained at Fort Knox with the 34th Regimental Combat Team 24th Division. He was in four battles and earned four Bronze Battle Stars and a Combat Infantry Badge.
Shepherd spent 1944 and 1946 in Germany, and was near the Rhine River when the war ended. He had served a full term with the National Guard before going off to war.
Both said the trip to Washington was well planned. After boarding the 747 in Louisville, they were given a gift bag with a t-shirt, name tags, a camera and had breakfast.
Each got a letter of thanks for their service from young students who made cards. A box lunch was served on the bus trip to Washington, then supper on the airplane on the way home.
They arrived in Baltimore to get another welcome. Soldiers and sailors at the Baltimore airport were on hand and a band was playing. The four bus loads of veterans had a full police escort while heading to Washington, D.C. The escort kept the buses rolling and stopped other traffic until they reached their destination.
Taylor and Shepherd said pictures do not do the memorials justice, you have to see them. After reaching the memorials, each received a flag and welcome gift.
The World War II Monument and Korean War Monument are near the Washington and Lincoln monuments.
The World War II monument is on a 7.4-acre tract and surrounds the Rainbow Pool. The 24 panels around the refurbished Rainbow Pool with fountains depicts scenes from the Atlantic Front on the North side and Pacific Front on the Southside. Two granite pavilions enclose Eagle sculptures and the western end has a wall of 4,000 stars, one commemorating every 100 Americans who died in World War II. Fifty-six columns with oak and wheat wreaths made of bronze represent veterans of all states and territories who fought in the war.
The Korean Memorial depicts a battleground in Korea. It has 19 stainless steel statues depicting a squad on patrol and evokes the experience of American ground troops in Korea. Granite strips and scrubby juniper bushes suggest a rugged terrain while windblown ponchos recall the harsh weather.
A statue on the northside lists the 22 countries of the United National that send troops and gave medical support in defense of South Korea.
It carries a message: “Freedom is Not Free.”
They also had a tour of the D.C. mall area sights and the Iwo Jima Monument in Arlington.
The Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter sponsored by the Kentucky Colonels Association. The Honor Flight mission is sponsored by the Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels.