An honor flight took off Thursday morning carrying 143 Permian Basin veterans to Washington, D.C., providing an opportunity for them to visit memorials erected in their honor. Many will be seeing them for the first time.
It’s the sixth flight since Permian Basin Honor Flight began in 2014, providing free flights for World War II, Korea and Vietnam Veterans to Washington, D.C., paid for by donations from Permian Basin residents.
The veterans celebrated with a send-off Wednesday night at the MCM Grande FunDome, 6201 Business Interstate 20, where they were provided meals and given pre-flight instructions.
“Every veteran of the armed forces deserves to go to Washington, D.C., in honor of the memory of their brothers and sisters that didn’t get that honor,” Permian Basin Honor Flight President Wesley Smith said.
One of oldest veterans flying to Washington D.C. for the first time is Tex Hooper, who served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
“It’s quite an honor,” Hooper said.
Hooper is one of the few World War II veterans on the flight, comprised mainly of Vietnam and Korea veterans. He said at one point, World War II veterans were dying off at a rate of around 600 per day.
Rudy “Sarge” Subia is another veteran who flew to D.C. on Thursday.
“Some of them have never been there,” Subia said about the veterans in the group. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity for veterans.”
Floyd Burks, a 21-year army veteran who served three tours in Vietnam, is one of those veterans who will be seeing the Vietnam memorial for the first time.
“It means a lot,” Burks said. “I’ve got some friends and a cousin at that wall.”
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall consists of two walls almost 500 feet in length, listing more than 58,000 names of veterans who died during the Vietnam conflict.
Vietnam veteran George Prickett was at the dinner to send the veterans off, but he had already gone on the third honor flight a few years ago. Prickett said it was his first time to see the memorial, which listed names of some men he served with.
“To go see a monument that was built for you, it’s just great,” Prickett said. “It’s extraordinary, the massive amount of names.”
The veterans will be flying back from D.C. Saturday at 6 p.m.