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Betty Casselman, a 102-year-old World War II Marine Corps veteran, enjoys lunch during her Honor Flight visit to Washington, D.C., from Findlay, Ohio, Sept. 20, 2017. Casselman said she "taught pilots the difference between friend and foe" during the war.

Betty Casselman, a 102-year-old World War II Marine Corps veteran, enjoys lunch during her Honor Flight visit to Washington, D.C., from Findlay, Ohio, Sept. 20, 2017. Casselman said she "taught pilots the difference between friend and foe" during the war. (Ken-Yon Hardy/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Every honor flight is packed with stories.

The Flag City Honor Flight was no different when it landed this week carrying 79 veterans traveling from Ohio to see war memorials built in their honor in the nation’s capital.

The group included 102-year-old Betty Casselman, a WWII-era Marine who taught pilots the difference between friend and foe during the war. Casselman, a minor celebrity in Freemont, Ohio, thanks to her sharp wit and WWII veteran status, relished the chance to see the memorials that dot Washington.

“This is a dream come true,” she said. “I haven’t been in Washington since I was in the Marine Corps – which is a long time ago. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Casselman took time to reflect briefly on her time in service. She enlisted in 1942 and served two years, leaving as a sergeant. Most of her time was spent as an instructor stateside, far away from the front lines. Casselman was so good at her job, she was able to teach the difference between enemy and allied ships and planes, using only silhouettes projected onto a screen.

There were pitfalls inherent in teaching Marines anything important in a relaxed environment, she said. “I taught them in a darkened room … and sometimes when we put the lights on half of them would be asleep.”

She spoke proudly of the men and women — “Oh, there were some women. Not all ladies, but women,” she quipped -- with whom she served, and of the city and the WWII memorial.

“I don’t know if I can put it into words but I was very impressed with the beauty of the whole thing and how neat it is – and how inclusive it is,” she said.

Also on the flight was Marianne Cochran, of Perrysburg, Ohio, who escorted her mother-in-law, Dorothy Cochran, 93. The WWII veteran had dreamed of visiting the DC memorials.

“A lot of family in the past have promised that they’d take her, and all three of her daughters have passed away,” Marianne Cochran said. “So, this is how we’re going to make this dream come true for her.”

Hardy.KenYon@stripes.com

Darnell.Michael@stripes.com

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