MORRISON – Growing up in Rock Falls, Air Force Brig. Gen. Walter Lindsley Jr. knew he wanted to be like the men and women he honored at Sunday’s seventh annual Honor Flight alumni picnic.
“The reason I joined the military is because of men and women like you,” Lindsey, 54, said as he addressed the gathering at Morrison-Rockwood State Park. “I watched movies and read about your exploits. Thank you for your service.”
The general, , whose nearly 40-year military career included stints in the Air Force Global Strike Command and an assignment in the Pentagon during the 9/11 attacks,was still in town after visiting a Sterling Noon Rotary program Tuesday and decided to attend the picnic to salute his fellow soldiers.
On Saturday, the veterans returned the favor.As he and his wife, Diane, arrived, several of them stood and saluted the Lindsleys.
About 135 people, including Honor Flight veterans, their family members, and Whiteside County Honor Flight volunteers attended the picnic.
The free meal was open to anyone who had taken the Honor Flight, and their families.
Honor Flight is a national program that sends veterans, combat or otherwise, to Washington, D.C., on a 1-day trip to tour war memorials and other attractions, each accompanied by a volunteer guardian to assist them on the trip. The program started as a way to honor World War II veterans and has grown in recent years to include veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Rachel Crandall, one of the picnic’s organizers, said many of those who attended Saturday are Vietnam veterans who took the June 6 Honor Flight.
The all-American picnic was decorated with signs on one side of the roadway leading up to the meal, with American flags posted along the path up to the pavilion. The tables were full of meat, casseroles, and other dishes.
A number of veterans shared their perspectives on their day in D.C.
Bob Boone, 68, of Prophetstown, served in the Air Force from 1970 to 1973 during the Vietnam War, starting in Tucson, Arizona, then at the former Hahn Air Force Base in Germany.
“We were all draftees. We did what we had to do. It was a time of maturing, growing up,” Scholl said.
Scholl was part of an Honor Flight in April 2016, and has been a guardian for other veterans on three flights since then.
“The main thing I enjoyed about my Honor Flight was seeing the Air and Space Museum,” Boone said.
Jim Starr, 70, of Rock Falls, served from December 1967 to December 1970 in the Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade, and served at Ninh Hoa, north of Nha Trang, Vietnam.
“We were about a mile in from the South China Sea. We supported the Korean White Horse Infantry, 9th Infantry Division,” Starr said.
Mike Scholl, 83, of Polo, served from 1954 to 1956 in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“I’m very happy to have done it. I take my hat off to people who are serving today,” he said.