2 Nacogdoches WWII veterans will get to take Honor Flight - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

2 Nacogdoches WWII veterans will get to take Honor Flight

James Arriola, 90, was a Navy seaman 1st class who served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  (Source: KTRE Staff) James Arriola, 90, was a Navy seaman 1st class who served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Oscar Maddox, 96, was a Navy seaman 1st class who had a desk job for a top commander at the Gulf of Lakey in the Philippines. (Source: KTRE Staff) Oscar Maddox, 96, was a Navy seaman 1st class who had a desk job for a top commander at the Gulf of Lakey in the Philippines. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Gailon Fletcher, Senior Vice Commander for VFW Post 3893 will serve as Guardian for the two men during a Honor Flight Austin trip to Washington, D.C. (Source: KTRE Staff) Gailon Fletcher, Senior Vice Commander for VFW Post 3893 will serve as Guardian for the two men during a Honor Flight Austin trip to Washington, D.C. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Both men have been in foreign lands serving our country, but neither have ever been to Washington, D.C. (Source: KTRE Staff) Both men have been in foreign lands serving our country, but neither have ever been to Washington, D.C. (Source: KTRE Staff)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

Honor Flights is the non-profit program that flies war veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the various monuments, with an emphasis on the one that is significant to their service.

On Thursday, two Nacogdoches World War II Navy veterans leave from Austin for the VIP trip.

"This is me right here,” said James Arriola, a WWII veteran and an Honor Flight participant.

Arriola had just turned 18 when he was drafted into World War II.

"Didn't get to come home from World War II at all,” Arriola said. “I was in there for 22 months."

It was a relatively short, but significant time of service to his country. The seaman first class dodged four mortars as he and crew delivered Marines to the beaches of Iowa Jima. 

"I looked up to heaven and said, 'Lord, if you don't let that fifth mortar fall, I'll live for you from now on', and it never did fall,” Arriola said.

Protection was granted at Okinawa, too.  

"I said, 'If I had to do it all over again, I would do it tomorrow,” Arriola said.

Like Arriola, but a few years earlier, Oscar Maddox got his order to leave San Francisco for the South Pacific. 

"Finally, I got a chance to go overseas to the Philippines, the Gulf of Lakey,” said Oscar Maddox, a WWII veteran and an Honor Flight participant.

The seaman's typing skills provided an office job serving the top commander. There’s no telling what Maddox sent via Victory Mail, the secure correspondence used during the Second World War.

"I typed all that out, the V mail, that went off,” Maddox said.

Both men served in foreign lands, but neither have been to their nation’s capital. 

"I've never been there,” Maddox said. “I can't visualize it."

Honor Flight Guardian Gailon Fletcher will change all that. 

"It's just a shame that the WWII monument was 60 years too late because a lot of the veterans have not had the opportunity to see it and never will,” Fletcher, the senior vice commander of VFW Post 3893.”

That explains why Honor Flights are called a trip of a lifetime. 

Arriola and Maddox will have to go to bed early Thursday night because on Friday they have to be up at 6:30 a.m.

"I get up early, Maddox said.

"I hope nobody snores,” Arriola said.

Excitement is building for this 96-year-old retired brick supplier, who put down his last brick at age 89 all because of a bad knee. Anticipation grows for a 90-year-old who still cuts hair at the barbershop he's operated since 1948. 

The Greatest Generation is ready to receive the honor they so rightfully deserve.  

The World War II veterans leave for Austin Wednesday, board a flight on Thursday, and on Friday will tour Arlington Cemetery. They will also watch the Changing of the Guard and visit six memorials before returning home to Texas.

Copyright 2016 KTRE. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly