Flight of a Lifetime 3

Local WWII Veteran Deeply Moved by Oklahoma Honor Flights Visit to D.C.

During War II, Allen Hughes flew 50 bombing missions over Germany aboard B-17s and B-29s. There’s little doubt that before and during each of those missions, Hughes–who ended his 31-year U.S. Air Force career with the rank of colonel–experienced a major adrenaline rush, as well as some trepidation about returning home in one piece.

Fortunately for him, return home he did. And in October 2015, the veteran–who at age 92 retains a (very) firm handshake and positive outlook–had the opportunity to relive that memorable period of time in his life, although this time, the excitement was tempered only by distant memories of the global war that involved more than 30 countries and resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million military personnel and civilians.

After applying and being accepted for the Oklahoma Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., where they would tour various war memorials, Hughes and fellow Legend Assisted Living and Memory Care at Rivendell veteran Charles Crouch anxiously ticked off the weeks before their departure.

The day before boarding the Boeing 737 Oct. 21 for the nation’s capital, however, Hughes and Crouch were feted at the assisted living center at a patriotically themed celebratory party, complete with red, white and blue Mardi Gras-like beads, attended by family and fellow residents, Hughes said. They–along with their sons, who served as escorts–were then transported via limousine to the Sheraton near Will Rogers Airport, where they were again guests of honor at a banquet.

Finally, the big day dawned. Both on the chartered flight to Baltimore-Washington Airport and back, the two veterans had an opportunity to visit with the 26 other WWII veterans, 53 Korean War veterans and one Vietnam veteran who took part in this Honor Flight.

Hughes said from their arrival to their departure, they were given “the royal treatment,” including a U.S. Park Police motorcycle escort to their various venues, beginning at the WWII Memorial. They also visited the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials and Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns, where they viewed the changing of the guards. Later that day, they were driven to the Iwo Jima and Air Force memorials. Of all the memorials, Hughes had previously seen only the Vietnam Memorial.

Not unexpectedly, Hughes said a highlight of the tour was the visit to the WWII memorial. “It was very peaceful and quiet, with a big water feature,” he recalled. “That was in contrast,” he added, “with the Korean War Memorial, which showed an infantry company (life-sized statuary) in the field, in uniform, with range jackets, weapons and other gear–each with a different expression on their faces, from fierce determination to terror – the full gamut of expression. That was very powerful.”

Though many aspects of the trip were thought-provoking and memorable, he said one moment stands out from the rest to him. Upon their return to Will Rogers World Airport that evening, they were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers, including a Girl Scout troop he estimated to be around 10 or 11 years of age. Holding aloft a miniature flag, each girl shook the hands of a veteran, and often, offered them a hug. Voice still shaking with emotion at the remembrance, Hughes remarked, “It was like a changing of the guard.”