World War II has been over for six decades, but the support for veterans nationwide is never-ending.
Efforts like the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight make sure the service and years of dedication United States veterans have put into our country are remembered and kept alive.
Several times a year, Greater St. Louis Honor Flight transports local veterans to Washington D.C., to see the World War II Memorial free of charge.
On Sept. 10, 25 St. Louis area WWII veterans made the journey to the nation’s capitol, ranging in ages from 83 to 96.
Among them were Roy J. May and Roger Imhof of Waterloo, who was a guardian for his father-in-law, Gene Laux.
Roger’s father, Tony Imhof of Waterloo, also attended the Honor Flight and was escorted by his daughter, Carolyn.
The day began early in the morning on Sept. 10, with a 4 a.m. send-off from Lambert International Airport.
May said it was “amazing” to see so many people show up at the airport at such an early hour and give the veterans a patriotic send-off.
The veterans flew from St. Louis to Baltimore and took a bus with a motorcycle escort the rest of the way to D.C.
Once in the city, the veterans had time to visit various memorials and other sights in D.C.
“I have seen many of the monuments before, but this was different,” May said of the WWII memorial. “If you are a veteran, I encourage you to apply for this trip.”
Even as the veterans prepared to make their return home that same day, the biggest parts of the journey were still ahead of them.Pictured is Roger Imhof of Waterloo, who served as a guardian on the Honor Flight for his father-in-law, Gene Laux, along with Roger’s father, Tony Imhof.
On the flight back, veterans are presented with letters and cards with family members, friends and community members expressing their gratitude for the service the veterans gave to the country.
This “mail call” is structured similarly to how mail was delivered to troops when they were overseas, and is a way for veterans to feel the community’s appreciation.
“The veterans deserve every honor we can give them,” Roger said. “Their sacrifice and that of all the men and women who did not come home gave me a life I could not have had otherwise.”
May said his daughter did all the “leg work” for his mail call and included letters from art students at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School and many local Girl Scouts.
“I am still going through these cards that carry such a kind message,” he said. “They mean so much to me.”
As the vets exited the plane on the evening of Sept. 10, they were greeted by between 300-400 family members, friends, military members, St. Louis Fire Department members, a group of bagpipers and Boy and Cub Scouts from the St. Louis area.
“There were so many people there to greet us; I just ‘lost it!’” May said. “A Navy Honor Guard, bagpipers, Boy Scouts and my family… It still brings tears to my eyes.”
Roger said he was honored to be a part of the day with his father-in-law and his father.
“This program is so appropriately named Honor Flight, but the honor was mine as well to be a part of this experience with Gene and my father, Tony,” he said.