Walt Churchill touched by Honor Flight tripWritten by Jay Hathaway | | email@example.com
A Toledo area business owner and war veteran was recently honored for his service with a trip to our nation’s capital.
Walt Churchill, owner of two long-established markets bearing his name in Maumee and Perrysburg, took part in Honor Flight Northwest Ohio’s most recent trip. The organization takes groups of veterans by plane to Washington, D.C. for one-day trips to visit the war memorials and other monuments.
The flight left early on the morning of Oct. 9, during the recent government shutdown. Honor Flight Northwest Ohio presenter David Chilson said the effect of the shutdown on the trip was minimal.
“The only impact was that we weren’t able to have lunch adjacent to the World War II Memorial, as we normally do, under two large tents,” Chilson wrote in an email. “Instead, we had lunch at a hotel.”
Churchill, accompanied by his grandson, David Tijerina, joined a group of 70 veterans and their companions from the Toledo area. He also said the shutdown was not going to stop them from seeing the sites.
“The veterans didn’t recognize that the memorials were closed, because they’re our memorials and we deserved to be there, and so we were there,” Churchill said.
One of the guards, admitting that he was not really supposed to, gathered and distributed brochures about the monuments out of respect for the visiting veterans, Churchill said.
Churchill, whose father served in the Marines as an executive officer, was raised to understand the importance of showing respect for members of the armed forces.
“You might say I grew up in the Marine Corps,” he said.
Churchill, along with two of his friends, enlisted in the Marines on Jan. 14, 1947. After training, he was sent to Camp Pendleton in California in September 1950, and was quickly activated for duty in the Korean War.
“Forty of us, on the third day we were there, were sent aboard ship to replace 40 Marines that were already aboard, to get ready to land at Inchon [Korea],” Churchill said.
“Of course, we had to get all of our shots first. When we enlisted, we got our shots and vaccinations in Toledo, then we got shots at Pendleton and then we got aboard ship and, just for good measure, they gave us all our shots again.”
Churchill was stationed at the Chosin Reservoir, which he said was one of the “cold” bases in Korea’s fight against the Chinese. Churchill said he was fortunate in his time there, and joked that one of his infantry mates and longtime friend, Paul Robinson, took some of the heat for him.
“He jokingly said to me that the Chinese keep aiming at me, but hitting him,” Churchill said. “He ended up with three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, but they kept missing me, which was OK.”
After their duty in Korea, Churchill and Robinson continued to serve until 1977, when they retired together after 30 years.
Unfortunately, due to a veteran and his companion getting lost for about an hour, Churchill’s group was not able to visit the Korean War Memorial during the trip.
“We had a timetable to be at Arlington [National Cemetery] for the changing of the guard, so we had to give up going to the memorial,” he said.
However, Churchill said the trip to Arlington was worthwhile, and the guard change was an inspiring display of pomp and ceremony.
“That place was impressive, to see all those grave sites in rows,” he said.
Churchill said the Korean War veterans on the trip will be given the option to return for a trip to see the memorial on a future Honor Flight, but he doubts he will take part. Instead, he said he plans to return on his own time.
“I’d like to take some time to visit the memorials, and I’d like to go to the Marine Corps museum at Quantico, Va., as well,” he said.
Churchill said it was a wonderful day, and he especially enjoyed seeing the groups of people that greeted the vets upon landing in Washington, D.C., and when they returned home to Toledo.
“It was the largest collection of enthusiastic Americans that I’ve ever been with,” he said. “The receptions were just amazing. There were a lot of kids that were really interested in showing respect for veterans.”
Honor Flight was founded in 2005 by a retired Air Force captain named Earl Morse to get World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial. There was a “sense of urgency” to get the aging World War II veterans to see the memorial, because it was not completed and dedicated until 2004, Chilson wrote.
Honor Flight Northwest Ohio was founded in late 2007 with the first flight taking place in April 2008.
To date, including the October flight, the local organization has made 32 flights and taken 1,666 veterans to Washington, D.C. — with a perfect safety record, Chilson said.
Tags: Arlington National Cemetery, Bronze Star, Camp Pendleton, Chosin Reservoir, David Chilson, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, Inchon, Korea, Korean War, Marine Corps, Marine Corps museum, Maumee, Paul Robinson, Perrysburg, Purple Hearts, Quantico, Walt Churchill, World War II Memorial