DAYTON — Local resident Jerry Feix was one of 84 veterans who participated in the Honor Flight Dayton program on Saturday, Oct. 3, leaving the Dayton International Airport at 3:30 a.m. for Washington D.C. and returning to Dayton around 10:30 p.m.
The program sent the 84 veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to the nation’s capital to spend the day touring several national monuments.
When the veterans returned to the Dayton International Airport, a large crowd awaited the heroes, to have a chance to show their appreciation for the sacrifices and service the veterans gave their country.
As family, friends and many others cheered in the airport lobby, the 84 veterans walked through, and many of them saluted the numerous American flags displayed by one of the many local ROTC groups in attendance.
Feix described the powerful scene as “the best welcome I ever got.”
Head of the Miami Valley Young Marines Ray Gerard spoke to the crowd for about twenty minutes before the veterans arrived back at the airport telling the crowd.
“We have a lot to be thankful for when these veterans come down the aisle tonight,” told those waiting. “One is that we can see and give them appreciation for all they have done for us.”
Gerard continued: “I’m personally thankful that I can be here with you tonight, when I look upon your faces I have the opportunity to see people who still know the meaning of patriotism, love of country and the ability to maintain the presence of the greatest country in the world.”
According to Feix, the group arrived at Ronald Reagan/Washington National Airport around 6:30 a.m. They were then able to visit the Vietnam War Memorial and Korean War Memorial, before visiting the Lincoln Memorial.
Feix said the group then shared a boxed lunch before visiting the Iwo Jima monument, the World War II Memorial and the Navy Memorial.
The trip to D.C. was a first for the 84-year-old Korean War veteran, who said for him personally the Iwo Jima monument and the Korean War Memorial were monuments which stood out to him.
“Going up to the memorial, they have people, they look just like real people wearing battle gear, that really stood out to me,” the ex-Marine said. “And the Iwo Jima Memorial really stood out — the six guys raising the flag.”
The veterans also participated in “Mail Call” as loved ones wrote letters to the veterans to read on their way home from Washington D.C.
Feix said he received about 16 letters, including one from Lois, his wife of 61 years, and son Gary.
Feix said the group also received a welcome from about 50 people in Washington D.C., received a police escort throughout the trip, and had numerous people approach the group to thank them for their service.
“I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever been through like that, going and seeing all that — it would be way up there on top of everything else,” Feix said. “It’s quite an honor. I think all the veterans should take that trip to see what’s going on up there.”
According to Feix, about 60 volunteers who paid for their own trip went with the group to help with the events of the day.
For Feix the trip was free and paid for by donations to the Honor Flight Program.
Feix served in the Marines during the Korean War, where he was a Corporal in the communications department during his 13 month, eight day tour of service.
Feix is currently an active worker at the Preble County Senior Center. He and Lois are the 2015 King and Queen for the center and can be seen in parades throughout Preble County this fall.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.