Korean War vet takes Honor Flight

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Korean War veteran Marvin Ries is pushed by his grandson John Howell as they return to Illinois from Ries’ Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Korean War veteran Marvin Ries was recently treated to an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in recognition of his past service to the country.

The program was organized through Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, an organization that celebrates American veterans with trips to D.C. several times throughout the year.

Ries had been preparing for his July 19 flight since this spring when he first heard about it. John Howell, Ries’ grandson who accompanied him on the trip, did a substantial amount of preparation to get information and organize things for Ries.

Ries said he was well taken care of throughout the trip, and was even supplied with oxygen tanks courtesy of the Honor Flight organization.

“When we got on there, there was a gentleman who grabbed me, shook my hand and then he had me come over to the side and he gave me a huge tank of oxygen,” Ries said.

Ries recounted his trip chiefly as a tour through D.C. with a group of fellow veterans predominantly younger than him. 

He recalled visiting the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials as well as the Lincoln Memorial.

He and his group also visited the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Musuem, where he recalls seeing airplanes that “boggled my mind.”

The group finally visited Arlington National Cemetery, where they were able to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before flying back to Springfield.

The return to Illinois was one of the most impactful moments of the trip for Ries. 

He said all the veterans aboard the plane were presented a collection of cards and notes — many from children in school — and the memory of arriving at the airport to see a mass of people waiting for them along the corridor was enough to make him emotional.

“We came back from Washington into Springfield and they surprised me, the wife and three of my daughters had come up there to meet me,” Ries said. “And I came out of the plane, they had, I would say four or five hundred people.”

Ries said he was thankful for the Honor Flight organization’s work, adding that other veterans in the area ought to know about Land of Lincoln Honor Flight and other organizations.

“They definitely did something that they don’t have to do,” Ries said. “This organization here, I can’t, I just cannot know how it functions and can function that well. It takes a lot to keep it organized.”

Seemingly, Ries’s biggest takeaway from the trip, though, was seeing all those people waiting to welcome him and his fellow veterans back home.

“You could not imagine,” Ries said. “Whole families and children and everybody.”

For more information on area Honor Flight programs, visit gslhonorflight.org or landoflincolnhonorflight.org.

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