Army veteran shares Honor Flight to DC with his three brothers: 'They're my heroes'
By SARAH MOSES BUCKSHOT | Syracuse Media Group | Published: September 28, 2019
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Michael “Mickey” Henson was a young boy when his three older brothers joined the Navy to fight in the Korean War.
“They’re my heroes,” Henson said.
Henson would eventually follow in their footsteps. He joined the Army in 1968 and served during the Vietnam War.
Now, nearly five decades later, the four brothers who once shared a bedroom boarded a flight together to visit Washington D.C. as part of Mission 14 of Honor Flight Syracuse.
Honor Flight Syracuse takes World War II, Korean and Vietnam war veterans to the nation’s capital to visit monuments honoring their service and sacrifice. About 80 veterans boarded the flight from Syracuse this morning and will return this evening.
Honor Flight Syracuse is inviting members of the community to help welcome the veterans home when they return to Syracuse Hancock International Airport at 6:40 p.m.
This is the first time Honor Flight Syracuse has ever brought four veteran brothers on the same mission, organizers said.
“I’m so happy to go with my brothers,” Henson said Friday.
— Henry Henson, 89, lives in North Syracuse.
— James “Jim” Henson, 88, lives in the town of Onondaga.
— Paul Henson, 87, lives in Oswego County in the summer and Florida in the winter.
— Michael “Mickey” Henson, 73, lives in North Syracuse.
Mickey was born on the day of Henry’s high school graduation. Growing up as the baby of six children, Mickey said he was spoiled by his older siblings.
His brothers joined the Navy and sent him home gifts from foreign lands, including a small parachute from his brother Paul.
“I played with that thing for hours,” Mickey said. “I would tie a rock on it and throw it up on in the air.”
Paul was the first to join the Navy. Jim quickly followed and then Henry, Mickey said. When they visited home they would teach Mickey the skills there were learning.
“Jim taught me how to roll up ropes and hoses with my feet,” he said.
Mickey said each of his brothers are special to him in different ways.
“They all looked after me,” he said. “I was the baby.”
Mickey was proud of his brothers, but in his family serving your country and loving God were the way they were raised.
“We were a ‘God and country’ family,” he said.
And his brothers were his inspiration.
After graduating from Le Moyne College, Mickey wanted to become a pilot, but his first mission was to serve his country. He picked the Army, even though his brothers tried to convince him to join the Navy. Mickey was drawn to the shorter time commitment, so he could come home and start his career as a pilot.
He served from October 1968 to May 1970 as a Specialist 4th Class in the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd of the 13th Artillery.
Mickey said he worked hard, kept his head down and did everything he could to make it home alive.
“The ones that didn’t make it, they are the real heroes," he said.
When he came home from the war, he focused on his career, got married and had children. His brothers had done the same when they came home from the Korean War.
The close-knit brothers never shared photos and stories about their experiences in war because there was always other things to talk about, Mickey said.
“Life here was happening," he said.
As the brothers prepared this week for Honor Flight Syracuse, they pulled out their old photographs and swapped never-been-shared stories with each other.
Mickey said he believes the trip to Washington will be emotional and therapeutic.
“It will be a moment of healing for all of us,” Mickey said. “I’m just so happy to be able to do this with them.”
Each veteran on the Honor Flight will be occupied by a “guardian" on the trip. Abigail Henson, Mickey’s daughter, will be his guardian.
“It’s an honor to have this experience with my father and uncles,” Abigail said. “It really is a privilege.”
This trip is an opportunity to pay tribute to their individual sacrifices together for the first time, Abigail said.
“They all have their own pictures, their own medals and their own stories,” she said. “This is an opportunity to share this experience together.”
Mission 14 departed Syracuse Saturday morning on an American Airlines charter flight at 6:30 a.m. At Reagan National Airport, buses, accompanied by a National Park Services police escort, will transport veterans and supporting flight team to the WWII Memorial, the USAF Memorial, and the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. The capstone event is observing the “changing of the guard” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.