Ray Morrison, now 87, was just 15 when he and six of his buddies joined the Navy in August 1950 – Morrison had a forged birth certificate.
He served four years in the Navy as a liaison instructor, teaching simulated instrument flight to prospective pilots.
Edwin Graham, 91, joined the Navy in 1949.
Assigned to a newly built ship, he was to take a Goodwill Cruise to South America, the first American warship to cross the Cape, ascend the West Coast, then cross the Panama Canal and to Washington DC.
âBut when we got off Jacksonville, that’s when the Korean War started and our plans changed,â Graham said. “We crossed the canal to Hawaii.”
He also served four years in the Navy, followed by a career in law enforcement on Long Island, New York.
On Wednesday, October 20, the two men from Inverness, who did not know each other before, were among 66 veterans and 66 guards to make an honor flight to Washington DC.
Since 2005, Honor Flight, a national organization, has taken veterans to Washington at no cost to them. Their rates are paid for through donations collected by local organizations, individuals and service clubs.
To date, approximately 245,000 veterans across the country have performed an honor flight.
The October 20 flight was courtesy of Villages Honor Flight, which takes off from Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford.
âIt was their 50th Flight of Honor and they wanted to make it even more special, and they did it,â Morrison said.
On Friday, October 22, the two sat down together at Morrison’s home to talk about their experiences that day.
âThe trip can be described in one word,â Morrison said, âWow.â
âDouble wow for me,â Graham said.
The agenda is basically the same for each Honor Flight. Veterans depart early in the morning and spend the day visiting some of Washington DC’s iconic memorials and landmarks including Air Force Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial ( “the wall”), the World War II memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Marine Corps War Memorial (“Iwo Jima”) and others.
There are USO “girls” singing, bagpipes, waving flags, calling by mail with handwritten letters from students to veterans, patriotic songs and one-on-one tutoring. volunteer.
Morrison’s tutor was a retired businessman and former Air Force veteran who lives in The Villages.
âMine was a beautiful young woman, 67, with 26 years in the Navy as a pharmacist,â Graham said.
After a very long day, they returned to Florida after midnight.
Morrison and Graham both said the most emotional stop on the tour for them was the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
âTo see the faces of these Marines – they look so young,â Graham said. “We had a guy with us who was a WWII vet who saw the action, and he was really moved.”
âThere were a lot of tears,â Morrison said.
However, as is typical of veterans who experience honor flight, their most moving moments were how they were personally honored for their military service.
âEvery place we went, people were clapping and shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,â Morrison said. âThere was a motorcycle brigade lined up, shaking hands with each of us, and then they escorted us to DC (from the airport in Baltimore, Maryland). In Baltimore, a guy greeted each of us.
âWe had a police escort everywhere we went,â Graham said. “They even shut off the traffic lights.”
Upon their return to Sanford after midnight, they took a bus to an American Legion post in Lady Lake, greeted by a crowd of around 300.
âI didn’t expect anything like it,â Graham said.
âI’ve talked to guys in my church who are veterans to go there,â Morrison said. âOne was in Korea and saw the action, and he didn’t want to talk about it. And one morning my wife, Laverne, and I were at the Chicken Coop for breakfast and I saw a WWII vet and told him about it, but he said he absolutely wouldn’t fly.
For veterans who cannot make it to Washington DC, Villages Honor Flight offers Virtual Honor Flight events twice a year.
For more information on this or to take an honor flight as a veteran or volunteer, call 352-432-1382, email email@example.com or visit online at www.villageshonorflight.org .
âI highly recommend it,â Graham said.
âWhen I got home I was still angryâ¦ and talked to my wife until after 3 am,â Morrison said. “It is something that I will remember all my life.”
For more information on the National Honor Flight Organization, visit online at www.honorflight.org.