Flying with America’s Best

By Kimberly Jenkins -

Hale in front of the Lincoln Memorial

Hale in front of the Lincoln Memorial

Hale in front of the Ohio part of a memorial.

Hale pictured with a soldier memorial

Hale standing in front of more soldiers memorial

Alfred, Brenda, and Julia Hale at Huntington Honor Flight

What is a vacation to most people, is the trip of a lifetime, for a lot of America’s veterans. Adding to that, a totally free trip to visit all the memorials for veterans, makes this trip even sweeter.

Local Veteran, Alfred Hale from Minford was selected by the Honor Flight Network, to take the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. this year.

Hale said he had applied either in 2013 or 2014, he wasn’t sure, but it was to go on one of the honor flights that goes to Washington D.C. He sent in an application and never heard anything for years and so he figured that they had scrapped it and then in June, the lady over it, called him and asked if I was still interested and wanted to go.

“I said, ‘Absolutely!’ She said you are scheduled to go in Sept. 23,” Hale commented.

Hale served in the US Navy and is a Vietnam veteran. “I was over there in 1967, I went in the Navy in 1965, and got out in 1967.” He said he got out thirteen days after his ship came in from Vietnam.

He knew his wife, Brenda casually, and then they got reacquainted a few years after he got back. The Hale’s have three children, Jason, Angel, and Julia.

Due to the fact that Alfred belongs to the American Legion, he heard about this flight from one of the guys that attended the American Legion Post at Lucasville, he went online and filled out an application and sent it in.

His wife Brenda said that right now, they have over 28,000 veterans on the list.

Hale said it all started out that they wanted to take all the WWII vets, because they were dying at an astronomical rate. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Honor Flight Network will continue to do whatever it takes to fulfill the dreams of our veterans and help our heroes travel absolutely free. Then they started on the Korean veterans and then the Viet Nam vets.

Hale said that they flew out of Huntington airport. They were suppose to leave between 9 and 9:30 a.m., but it was really foggy, so the plane didn’t get there from Philadelphia, until 11:30 a.m., and didn’t leave the runway til after 1 p.m.

“The flight got to Washington at 2 p.m. We still got to see a everything we were suppose to see, except for a couple of exhibits that were closed for renovations. There we probably 80 some veterans on the plane and there were probably that many guardians. They called them, because some of the vets were in wheelchairs and needed assistance getting around.” These guardians were volunteers, who pay their own way for the trip ($300).

“There were probably around 160 people total on the plane,” Hale said. “We just took off from Huntington. They do regional flights from different areas from all over the country. They had three large tour buses ready for us as we landed in Washington D.C.

The first thing we got to see, was the WWII memorial, which was very impressive. And, we got to see almost all the Korean memorials, the Vietnam memorial, the Lincoln memorial, the Washington memorial, the WWII memorial Marine Corps in Iwo Jima was closed for renovations.” The vets had guides with an almost one on one ratio.”

When they landed back in Huntington there were balloons, a band and music. Probably 100 or more people were there to welcome us and cheer us all through. There were veteran groups with flags and stuff. It was the reception that a lot of veterans did not get at the time they came home.

Hale said, “I looked forward to the trip, I was a little apprehensive about flying, that’s not my favorite way to go.”

“He talked about it from the day he found out he was going until the day he left,” added Brenda. Hale had from June to September to look forward to the trip. He said he didn’t know anyone on his trip, not a soul. But, they were comrades. “It turned out that the guy that was beside me and the guard that was assigned to me, was Navy too. There were all kind of branches and all kinds of ages. And the guardians have to pay their own way.

Hale brought out a big envelope that his girls wanted him to show. Hale said that toward the end of the trip, they handed every veteran a packet. Inside these envelopes, were letters, cards, and pictures drawn from children’s groups and school classes. The Hale family said that they all enjoyed the packets as much as Alfred did. He then told the story, that the man sitting beside him was trying to read the things as the bus was going, and he kept dropping them in the floor and he’d bend over to get one and drop two, and I said, “you know, I’m just gonna wait til I get home to open it.” Because, he was having a time. Daughter Angel came over the next morning and he brought out the packet and she said, “I loved it!”

Hale then told about the part he liked the best. “We had a motorcycle cop escort on the bus, he led us the whole time with lights and siren. If he came to a red light, he’d motion for everybody to get out of the way, we blowed through red lights or we wouldn’t have made it. Any where we stopped, he stopped and walked around or whatever. And when we were ready to go, he’d get back on and turn the lights and sirens on again. I loved it, I never dreamed it would happen!” Hale said he never did ride a motorcycle himself, which is why he enjoyed this.”

Hale sports a handlebar mustache and has had it for many years. Angel said that she had only seen him without it once, when he had a head-on collision in 1993 with a drunk driver, where the driver did not make it, but Hale did. He said that it was unusual because it is usually the other way around. Hale had so many facial injuries, that they had to cut off the mustache and his kids were all teenagers and they’d never seen him without it. And, to this day, that’s the only time he has not had it.

Brenda said about the trip he took, that she thought it was wonderful. “I thought it was a way to honor them, because they were not honored, because at his time, people thought it was all their fault, due to the Vietnam War. They were not honored at all, so I think it’s about time.”

Hale’s oldest daughter, Angel said, “This organization, just that someone thought of our veterans to form this organization, to try to bring all of them to Washington D.C. to see all these memorials to show respect and honor their comrades, to give them that opportunity. A lot of these guys, whether they can afford it or not, or with health reasons, they can’t go there, but this makes it possible for them to do that and without that, a lot of these guys would never see these memorials they wouldn’t have that opportunity.”

Julia, Hale’s youngest, said, “I just think once you’ve been in the service, that, that doesn’t leave them, when they come home. That’s still in him, and I think that’s important for him or any veteran to see. It’s good for them to go as a veteran, and this organization like Angel said, there are people not healthy and wouldn’t get to go, so they are providing them the way to go and someone to help them get around, and I just think that’s so important for someone who wouldn’t have this opportunity otherwise.”

Angel said that Julia made a very valid point, that Washington D. C. is not just a vacation point. That it is a place to honor all the men and women who have served our country, and who continue serve today.

Julia’s kids thought it was neat that their grandpa got to go, and they both want to go to Washington D.C.

Angel was the one who reached out to the Daily Times, because she wanted every veteran to know about this organization. She said she felt that was especially for the older generations, so they can get out and go see the memorials, that they have this chance that her dad did.

Brenda didn’t find out she could have went, until it was too late, that someone could have went with him.

As long as one was honorably discharged, they could be from any branch of the military service, and it is free for veterans.

“I didn’t pay a penny, they fed us three meals, paid for the plane, the buses, everything. I heard someone on the plane say that this trip would have cost around $66,000 dollars. This trip is funded through donations only. It is funded as a 501C organization. They take donations from corporations, business and individuals.”

Hale belongs to the American Legion in Minford and is the current commander and past commander of the VFW in Sciotoville. He also belongs to the Vietnam veteran’s of America, over in South Shore, and he belongs to the Disabled American Veterans in Wheelersburg and that these keep him busy. He mentioned that they (Minford) do military grave site services along with the Lucasville post, because they are both small.

Hale worked 31 years at the railroad in Portsmouth, right after he got out of the service. He is a disabled veteran, as he has Agent Orange, like he said most of the vets from Vietnam do.

The Honor Flight Network gives as their mission statement: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC, to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.

Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who are terminally ill. Honor Flight Network has expanded to include Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. In order for Honor Flight Network to achieve this goal, guardians fly with the veterans on every flight providing assistance and helping veterans have a safe, memorable and rewarding experience.

Hale in front of the Lincoln Memorial in front of the Lincoln Memorial

Hale in front of the Ohio part of a memorial. in front of the Ohio part of a memorial.

Hale pictured with a soldier memorial pictured with a soldier memorial

Hale standing in front of more soldiers memorial standing in front of more soldiers memorial

Alfred, Brenda, and Julia Hale at Huntington Honor Flight, Brenda, and Julia Hale at Huntington Honor Flight

By Kimberly Jenkins

Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928

Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928