Honor Flight helps local WWII veteran heal
For years, Mark Owens has encouraged fellow veterans to participate in the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Honor Flight.
Honor Flight’s mission is to transport war veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.
The experience can be healing, said Owens, a Vietnam veteran who has gone once as a chaperone.
“It’s just really good for the psyche and the health,” he said. “Everybody feels uplifted on the way back.”
But when Owens approached Joe Hulbert of Quincy to participate in the Honor Flight, the World War II veteran couldn’t bring himself to do it. After 70 years, the memories of his lost friends were just too painful, Joe said recently from his home.
It took much prodding by Owens, but Joe finally stepped onto that plane to Washington, D.C., last month.
It was an experience he never will forget, said Joe, who turned 89 while on the Honor Flight. And one he wants other people, especially younger people, to experience themselves.
“Every young person should have to go through, to see the memorials and go through that (Arlington National) cemetery to realize what happened,” he said.
Originally from Minnesota, Joe and his wife, Marian, are longtime community members and former local business owners. Together they owned Quincy Auto Body and Quincy Towing. The couple recently celebrated 70 years of marriage.
Joe and Marian began courting at the young ages of 13 and 11, respectively. Joe talked of picking blueberries and milking cows to earn enough money to take Marian to a 15-cent movie, with her riding on the handlebars of his bike to their date. They later were married at 16 and 18 years old.
“We’ve been together forever,” Marian said.
“Just about all our lives,” Joe added.
Joe enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was only 16 years old. He already had been on his own for several years, so his mother signed the papers, allowing him to enlist, he explained.
At 17, Joe was sent to a naval supply depot on Calicoan Island in the Philippines. The island, off the tip of Samar, was a mile wide and only 8 miles long, he said. Everything from food to props for ships and Jeeps came into the depot, he recalled.
He was on the island during the last part of the war for about a year and a half. The seaman first class also spent some time aboard the USS Goslin, and was discharged in August 1946. Joe’s memories of life on the island and in the service are still vivid today.
“I knew you were awful glad to get off of there,” Marian said.
On April 25, Joe joined close to 200 people on the Inland Northwest Honor Flight. Honor Flight is a national organization that began in 2004, with the Northwest Honor Flight hub starting in 2009. Since 2009, the Inland Northwest group has sent 1,167 veterans to Washington, D.C., according to its website. The organization serves only veterans who have served during conflict periods.
The experience is quick. Joe flew out of Spokane on April 25 and returned the next day. In that time, he saw the numerous monuments and memorials dedicated to the men and women who have served in the armed forces. He witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“You can’t even imagine the size of it,” he said of the cemetery.
The U.S. Navy Memorial was among those tributes that especially struck Joe. At the memorial is a statue of a lone sailor.
“It kind of hit home because I had been in that position with my sea bag standing at my side,” he said.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org