SHELBURNE — Korean War veteran Burton Meyers and his daughter Elaine Wood shared the “trip of a lifetime” when the two took part in an Honor Flight New England to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C.
For the 90-year old Meyers it was a chance to receive recognition for four years of service in the Navy and share memories with other Korean War veterans.
Honor Flight New England transports veterans of World War II and the Korean War to D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. In 10 years, Honor Flight New England has taken over 2,000 veterans to the nation’s capital at no cost to the veterans.
Wood said her uncle took part in an Honor Flight to D.C. about three years ago and she asked her Dad if it was something he would be interested in doing. He was and she put together and submitted an application for him.
“She did everything. I didn’t have anything to do with it except take the trip,” said Meyers.
There is a waiting list of veterans wanting to take the trip and priority is given to World War II veterans and those who are terminally ill. Wood received notice this past February that her father’s application was approved and he was on the May 19 flight list.
Every veteran is required to have a guardian and Meyers wanted his daughter to join him and serve as his guardian.
"He said to me 'if you don't go, I don't go'" recalled Wood. That meant coming up with the money to cover her costs including the entire airfare.
Wood said she is extremely thankful to the organizations and people who donated money that enabled she and her father to make the trip.
The VFW Auxiliary Post 2520 of Berlin paid her entire plane far and additional donations came from the Gorham American Legion Auxiliary Unit 82, the Gorham American Legion Post 82, family, friends, co-workers and an anonymous donation.
The trip took place on Sunday, May 19, and the adventure got off at a 4:30 a.m. start time from St. Vincent Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Berlin, where Meyers now lives after years as a resident of Shelburne.
Wood said the staff at the home put together the items her father would need and had him ready to go at the pick-up time. She also cited Taveras Transportation, which provided transportation to and from Manchester airport for the wheelchair-bound Meyers.
The 40 veterans were first taken to the fire department at the airport for coffee and breakfast items. From there, a motorcade of 175 motorcycles, many of them operated by veterans, escorted the veterans to the terminal. It was, Wood said, “an amazing sight.”
Once inside, the veterans were greeted by a gathering of about 100 people.
In addition to the 40 veterans and their 40 guardians, the flight included 20 volunteers, including firefighters, nursing personnel, EMTs and directors. The plane landed at Baltimore airport and the group was loaded onto four buses and escorted into Washington by police with lights and sirens activated.
Meyers said police radioed ahead so traffic could be stopped to let the buses through.
Neither Meyers nor Wood had been to D.C. before the trip. Both described a full but exhilarating day. Meyers said they got to see all the war monuments including the World War II memorial, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam Wall and Arlington National Cemetery. They even got a view of the White House from a distance.
After a full day on the ground, the veterans returned to Baltimore, where a sit-down dinner was served at an area hotel. Returning to Manchester at about midnight, people were again waiting for them at the airport.
“The respect shown to all the veterans was amazing,” said Wood.
The pair returned to St. Vincent almost exactly 24 hours after they had left.
Meyers said he was exhausted and advised the staff at the home that he would be sleeping in the rest of the day.
“It was a wonderful trip and any veteran who has the opportunity to make that trip in the future, I strongly recommend they don’t pass it up,” he said.
Meyer said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to make what she called the trip of a lifetime with her father. She said Honor Flight New England is an amazing group and expressed her appreciation to all who donated so she and her father could make the trip.
Meyers grew up in Nashua and joined the Navy in 1948, two years after graduating from high school. Patrolling the Wonsan Harbor area off the coast of Korea, his ship was hit twice, but Meyers said no one was killed or hurt in either attack. He was scheduled to be released in 1951 but was held over until September 1952.
During hunting trips to the Androscoggin Valley area, he had met Priscilla (Tillie) Hayes, whose father operated Riverview Cabins in Shelburne. The pair had lost contact but while in the service, he decided to write to her. She answered him back and in May 1952 the couple married.
Meyers said he considered remaining in the Navy but it would have required being separated from his wife. So when he finished his tour of duty, he moved to her hometown of Shelburne. The couple lived there until Tillie passed away in 2015 after 63 years of marriage.