VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT)– COVID-19 has made it difficult to take trips and honor our veterans. Honor Flight’s Bluegrass chapter found a way to celebrate one World War II veteran. It’s been 75-years since the war ended. Those who fought in the war served during a pivotal time in history.
“It’s critical that we take the time to honor them and talk to them while they are still with us so we can learn some of their stories,” said Jeff Thoke from Honor Flight’s Bluegrass chapter.
Since Honor Flight can’t fly veterans to Washington, D.C., the group brought some old memories to life for World War II veteran Pedro Carrillo.
“We had a five gallon container of smoke that we’d smoke at night because the Japanese would come and bomb the transport planes as we were at ships,” said Carrillo, recalling his time watching over ships he was assigned to. “I was 17 when I came in the Navy. My dad had to sign for me.”
Carrillo had the chance to see LST 325 while reflecting on his time in the Navy, riding aboard a Higgins boat which are much smaller than the LST.
“We made a couple of landings and came back,” said Carrillo. He was first on an LST when being taken to Iwo Jima. “I was in the navy for three and a half years and was never stationed on a ship. That’s the reason I got out.”
Even though landings were tough, Carrillo said he would do it all over again if it meant protecting our freedom. This something many of us may take for granted.
“In the military, you do what you’re told to do. Not what you want to do. You do it to the best of your ability and hope you get out of there alive. If not, that’s it,” said Pedro. He’s 94-years-old which is why the Honor Flight’s Bluegrass chapter has a wish campaign. They are taking World War II veterans on adventures like these during the pandemic.
“Time is of the essence. We are trying to do things like this while we still can we don’t want to wait a year. You don’t want to tell a 95, 98 year old to wait a year because you just don’t know. It’s where we are,” said Thoke.
Honor Flights hope to resume trips to Washington D.C. next year, but the future is still unknown due to COVID-19 restrictions.
(This story was originally published on Sept. 18, 2020)