Honor flight #19 October 17-19, 2015

“Gute” at home in SaddleBrooke

“Gute” at home in SaddleBrooke

Jerry Lujan

SaddleBrooke resident, Julius “Gute” Gutierrez, was one of twenty-five military veterans flying to Washington, D.C on October 17 to see their war memorials. Ten were WWII veterans, 12 were Korean veterans and three were Korea/Vietnam veterans. Gute was one of the three who served during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. This Honor Flight included the last of the WWII veterans who were registered and the first Korean veterans to be flown out of Tucson. Gute was on the waiting list for Korean veterans for two years waiting for the WWII list to be completed.

Gute had high praise for the Honor Flight program – beginning when they all checked in at the Tucson airport and ending when they were welcomed back to Tucson. On their flight to the nation’s capital they had a three-hour layover in Dallas where they were surprised to be greeted by surprised travelers who cheered and greeted the veterans as they waited for their connection to Washington. An even bigger surprise was Mail Call. Each veteran was given a bag containing thank you letters written by Tucson school children, family members and friends.

Gute and his fellow veterans were impressed by the volunteers who greet each Honor Flight as it arrives in Baltimore. That is just one part of the overall package that is the Honor Flight program. Gute gave high marks to the leader of the Tucson group, retired Colonel “Moe,” who made sure that the group stayed together from the time they left their hotel in the morning and at each of the memorials they visited. Lori Patterson, retired Air Force Sergeant, was Gute’s Guardian and she kept her eyes on him as they moved from memorial to memorial

The day they were to spend visiting the memorials was cold and windy but it didn’t dampen their spirits. At each stop the group was greeted by others who were visiting the memorials. School children came up to the group and shook the veterans’ hands, saying “Thank you,” followed by their parents.

On their day of departure they visited Ft. McHenry and saw the fort where the National Anthem was inspired by Francis Scott Key after the fort was bombarded by the English in 1814.

After a long day that began with an early breakfast at the hotel, the tired veterans returned to Tucson where they received their last surprise – the enthusiastic flag-waving crowd waiting to welcome them back. Gute said that the trip was a wonderful way to thank the veterans who served their country, regardless of what they did in the service or where they were stationed, which in Gute’s case was a number of places both in the U.S. and overseas.

Honor Flight is a nation-wide program that sends veterans on a three day free trip to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials. Go to www.honorflightsaz.org for more information. If you or anyone you know has been on an Honor Flight, please contact me at 818-6264.