GALLERY / VIDEO
Veterans from Chicago find closure at DC memorials during Honor Flight
By EMMA SWISLOW | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 12, 2019
WASHINGTON — 103 veterans from the Chicago area came to the nation's capital Wednesday as part of Honor Flight Chicago, a non-profit that brings vets on a whirlwind one-day trip to visit the memorials that commemorate the wars they served in.
At the National World War II Memorial, former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell spoke to and took pictures with the veterans.
Powell, who served in the Army for “35 years, 3 months and 28 days,” talked briefly about the importance he places on military service.
“Service is a part of being a good citizen,” he said. “Sometimes it’s in the military. Sometimes it’s serving your community in one way or another … Finally, they let me out. I got out for four years, and next thing I know I’m secretary of state. It was just another way to serve. I could have gone into politics, but I’m a soldier, not a politician.”
Reps. Sean Casten, Dan Lipinski and Mike Quigley, all Democrats from Illinois, also met with the visitors.
After landing in northern Virginia early that morning and visiting the Air Force and World War II Memorials, the vets made their way down to the west end of the National Mall, where the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are all located.
Some stopped for an ice cream break, others took in the view over the Reflecting Pool. Many gathered at the Vietnam wall to make rubbings of the names of men who they had served alongside during the war.
Bob Misevich, a combat medic in Vietnam, came on the trip with a list of names of six men he had helped on the battlefield, but never knew if they had made it home alive.
“The purpose of my trip here was to get some closure on the six soldiers, three of which are not on the wall — and I’m thrilled about that," he said. “There are three on the wall, one of which died in my arms."
He described the duties he performed as a medic, noting that his main responsibility was to stop the bleeding. From there, a medevac team would take over, meaning Misevich typically did not know the fate of those he helped.
One of the names he found on the wall was Dennis R. Estes, a soldier who he had tried to save on the battlefield.
“Occasionally the bleeding was too profuse, like when I lost Estes. He got hit in the jugular vein and the blood shot out about two or three feet,” Misevich said. “The mission was to stop the bleeding, and I did everything I could. You couldn’t do it with a band-aid. I took my shirt off, put that on him, and that helped.
"He only said one word to me when I went up to him. He said, ‘Doc,’ and that was the last word he said.”
Honor Flight Chicago, a regional hub of the greater Honor Flight Network, was founded in 2008. They make several trips to D.C. each year in an effort to bring as many veterans to the memorials as possible.
When the program started out, most of the veterans making the trips had served in World War II or Korea. But starting this year, Honor Flight Chicago began including Vietnam veterans as well.
The group on Honor Flight Chicago’s 92nd flight had three World War II, 19 Korean War and 81 Vietnam War veterans.
Veterans meet and take pictures with former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. The veterans visited the nation's capital as part of Honor Flight Chicago, a nonprofit that flies vets out for a one-day trip.
EMMA SWISLOW/STARS AND STRIPES