DAYTON — Camden resident and WWII Veteran Lloyd Cross spent last Saturday, Sept. 2, in Washington D.C. thanks to Honor Flight Dayton.
Cross left early in the morning and arrived back to Dayton late in the evening, where he and the other veterans were met with thunderous applause and appreciation for their service.
According to Honor Flight Board Vice-President Al Bailey, Honor Flight is a program created in 2005 to honor WWII veterans for their service by providing a free trip to the nation’s capital to see the national memorial dedicated in their honor. The program was started locally in Ohio, but has since expanded to a national organization which is referred to as the Honor Flight Network.
As for why the program was originally started, Bailey said, “Many of the WWII veterans didn’t have the physical capability to travel by themselves nor the financial support to cover the expenses. Without a program like Honor Flight, there was no hope that they would ever see their memorial. In May 2005, the first aircraft, which was a four-seater general aviation aircraft, took off with five other similar planes. It took 12 WWII veterans to see the WWII memorial.
“This trip is not a family vacation — it’s a method of viewing their memorials with fellow veterans that had similar experiences during the war. Many have never talked about their military experiences until now. Because of this, family members are finally hearing and understanding what their loved one faced during wartime.”
This statement was true for the Cross family. When Lloyd Cross returned home he was welcomed by many supporting family members. He was so touched by their support, he couldn’t stop gushing about them.
Born in Virginia in 1928, Cross went into the service and served his time — where he was stationed in Japan between Tokyo and Yokohama. When he returned to the states he heard that Frigidaire was hiring in Dayton, which was the story for many WWII veterans.
“That went on for about three years and I met this good looking little blonde from Camden,” he said. “She was going to the playground out on Franklin Street out there in Eaton and I had a brand new 1949 Chevy Coupe. There went these two little blondes just trucking down Franklin Street and I thought, ‘Boy, you need to know her.’ So I did a u-turn and tried to get her in the car. It wouldn’t happen.
“I thought she would jump right in, but it didn’t happen. I don’t remember just how I got her to go on a date with me, but I know I tried hard.”
His family said he had never told that that story before.
He continued, “I have got a fabulous family. I really have. I have three kids, seven grandkids, and eight great-grandkids. They’re all good. Jean [Cross] and I built Cross’s Campground in Camden.”
As for why he decided to participate in Honor Flight, he said, “I’m still on Preble County Honor Guard. I went on a bus trip and got to put wreaths on the graves. That was the biggest honor I’ve had since I left the service.”
As for the Honor Flight itself, Cross said, “It was a fabulous trip. I have never been treated as good in my life. When we came in and all these people were here, it really got me. I’ve never seen so many people. We had military people in Washington D.C. honoring us. It was such a good day.”
Bailey shared a similar sentiment. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and have experienced first hand what this trip has done for the many veterans that travel with fellow veterans. Many have stated that they have been going through therapy for years, but this one day trip is the best therapy.”
“I really didn’t think I wanted to go. I almost talked myself out of it, but last weekend we went to a race in Virginia and that’s where I came from,” Cross said. “We went down to visit and I enjoyed that weekend, when I didn’t think I was going to enjoy that either. I’m glad I went now. I may not get another chance, you never know.
“I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of being a Mason and a veteran. Those two things I am proud of.”
Each Honor Flight Dayton charter flight, escorting 100 veterans at a time, costs approximately $72,000. Trips are possible thanks to the donations submitted by individuals, families, organizations and companies. Honor Flight Dayton does not receive government donations or contributions. Every honored veteran travels free with guardians paying their own way. All Honor Flight Dayton board members and volunteers do not receive any pay.
Honor Flight Dayton accepts applications from WWII veterans, Korean war veterans, and Vietnam war veterans. WWII veterans do receive priority placement. Applications are accepted all year long, as are donations. The number of trips held each year are dependent on donations. There will be another Honor Flight in November.
In addition to Honor Flight Dayton, there is a sister program for those veterans who have already passed without seeing their memorial. The program, called Honoring Yesterday’s Heroes, allows family members to send a picture of their veteran on the Honor Flight.
Honor Flight Dayton requests a 5 x 7 photo of the veteran, preferably while in service. As part of the ceremony, they will photograph an American flag along with the veteran’s picture at the appropriate memorial or memorials.
After the trip, the family will receive an 8 x 10 color photo and a certificate from Honor Flight Dayton honoring their veteran. The original photo will be returned at this time. There is no charge for participating in this program. According to Honor Flight’s website, this is their way of showing their respect and appreciation to passed Veterans.
According to Bailey, this year’s Honor Flight Dayton will complete four charter flights along with two RV convoy trips, which will enable 475 veteran heroes to see their national memorials.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH