WASHINGTON — Add 28 more members of the "Greatest Generation" to the long list of World War II veterans who have visited monuments in the nation's capital through the Honor Flight program.
The veterans, who were joined on the Honor Flight of Idaho trip by 22 guardians, started a long Wednesday in Washington at the National World War II Memorial, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Other events on their schedule included a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.
For Jim Bowen of Boise, the visit brought back memories of the start of the war that would result in the loss of over 400,000 American lives. "December 7, 1941," he recalled. "I was standing in front of my bookcase with the radio on, and all of a sudden the radio said Pearl Harbor has been attacked. Two years later I was in the Navy, and I spent 20 years there."
After retiring from he Navy, Bowen worked as an engineer at defense contractor General Dynamics.
Bowen called the memorial "absolutely gorgeous. I love the water and I love all the (columns representing the) states, and I love the fact that it's quiet, peaceful ... except for airplanes flying over. A beautiful place."
Jack Tomlinson, who joined the service as an 18-year-old right out of high school, recalled flying the P-51 Mustang aircraft on missions from Iwo Jima to Tokyo and back.
"It was fast," he said of the long-range fighter plane. "It was fun (to fly), but it was hot. It had a bubble canopy, and that sun was on you all the way."
"The thing that scared me most was anti-aircraft. I did get hit over Tokyo Bay. I had a big hole in my wing, but I got back to Iwo Jima.
"It was all new to me. I was young enough that I wanted to fly, and it seemed like a good thing to do."
Tomlinson called he memorial "fantastic. People all seem to stop, and it gives you a good feeling. It's beautiful. Very beautiful. I'd like to meet the guy who dreamed all this up.
"I hope all the (World War II veterans) who are still living can get back here and see this."
Bud Kelly got his chance to see it on Wednesday. As he surveyed the memorial, he said, "Been waiting for this a long while ... a long while."