Flight of Honor – Fred Howe and Marlin Miller

Book club pal Fred Howe and golfing pal Marlin Miller are the two veterans my wife Karen and I went to the Raleigh/Durham Airport to welcome home on October 26, 2011.

When we arrived at the airport it wasn’t hard to follow the music and cheering to the parking lot atrium where I immediately recognized Tom Penny on the main level next to the handrail for the “people mover” and just in front of the USO table where coffee and cookies were offered to all.  An Army Viet Nam Vet and golfing pal, Tom had sent the  e-mail about Marlin and the Flight of Honor and we stood with him and his wife Mary Lou waving the American flags given to us by volunteers and swaying to the delightful NC State Marching Band music while we waited for the arrival of our WWII veterans.  Tom pointed out Marlin’s family a few yards away and I walked over to meet Nancy Miller, their son Tim, a Raleigh fireman, and other family members while Karen went up a floor to say hello to our friends Dean and Les Tryon.

Although we couldn’t catch up to Marlin at the airport, we did bump into Fred and Gwen Howe when we headed for the car for the ride back to Wake Forest.

Here are a few details about Fred and Marlin from telephone interviews conducted a few days later:

Fred Howe, an active and amiable member of our history book club, performed aircraft maintenance after training at Keesler Army Air Corps Base in Mississippi.  He enlisted at 17, and the Air Corps took him when he turned 18 near D-Day, June 6, 1944.  His enlistment was “for the duration of the war plus 6 months,” and he was mustered out as a corporal in 1946.

Stationed in England, France, and Germany, Fred was in charge of inventory and inspection of aircraft parts and supervised German workers loading and unloading those parts.

With the characteristic twinkle in his eye, Fred described the Flight of Honor police escorts and the red, white and blue busses that made visiting the monuments in Washington very easy on him and his fellow veterans.  He wanted to make sure people knew that the trip was sponsored by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers in partnership with the Triangle Automobile Dealers Association.  He spoke with Robert Glaser, a representative of the auto dealers, who told him the Flight of Honor got started in 2004 and that to date 122 flights have been made by US Air alone.

Today Fred serves as a Lay Minister for the Community Church of Christ in Raleigh.

Marlin Miller, who I first met as a fellow golfer and a player assistant at Wake Forest Golf Club, joined the Navy at the age of 17.  As he describes it, he enlisted in the tide of patriotism that affected young men during WWII.  After training he was stationed at the Norfolk Naval Air Station where he performed general maintenance on “shot up” aircraft.  He played halfback on offense
and defense on a championship touch football team at Norfolk, and he’s fairly certain he was bypassed when others were shipped out because of football.

Following his active duty during the war, Marlin was called back by President Truman during the Korean War, but instead of Korea he was sent to Bremerhaven, Germany, a port city where he worked in the main American armed forces post office that processed all incoming and outgoing mail for our military personnel in Europe.  He mustered out as a Petty Officer 2nd Class after another 13 months of service.

Marlin told me he had a brother in the Army at the “Battle of the Bulge,” where the US Army commander gave the German commander’s surrender demand a famous one-word response: “Nuts.”   He also recalled nephew who was killed in action on a B-24 bombing mission.

“The Flight of Honor was a great trip,” Marlin said.  “I went to honor those who were not as lucky
as I was.”

Concluding observations:

Though Fred Howe and Marlin Miller were assigned to work behind the scenes, they still put their lives at risk for their country by the very fact that they volunteered to serve.  There can be no doubt that every member of the military is potentially in harm’s way, and no doubt that we all owe our
veterans our admiration and gratitude.

There is an alarming statistic on the Flight of Honor web site: we are losing our WWII veterans at the rate of 1,200 a day.  We don’t have much time to ensure that they well aware of our admiration and gratitude, and that goes for WWII veterans and all of our other veterans.

If you would like to contribute to the Flight of Honor program, here are the links:

www.triangleflightofhonor.com      and     www.HonorFlightNetwork.org

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Welcome Home, and Thanks!

  OK, I admit to being an unabashed and unapologetic fan of     most things military.  My own time in the US Air Force (1957- 61) was peacetime service between the conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam.  I was lucky.

While in the AF I was often in the company of veterans of World War II and Korea.  Having grown up watching films depicting the heroism and sacrifices of those veterans, I was always a bit star-struck in their company, always anxious to hear about their experiences, although it turned out that most of them waved off questions and seemed often to avoid speaking of their exploits.

No matter – all my life I’ve looked up to members of “The Greatest Generation,” the men and women who were soldiers, sailors, marines, “Coasties,” and Army Air Corps (later Air Force) veterans.  And despite reservations about Viet Nam and other conflicts since Korea, I’ve never waivered in my respect for those who put their lives on the line for my country.

And so when I learned that a book club pal and a golfing pal, WWII veterans, were on the Triangle Flight of Honor to Washington, DC on October 26, 2011, I quickly made plans to welcome them home that evening at the Raleigh/Durham Airport.

To learn about the Flight of Honor program, go to www.honorflight.org.

For the program here in the Triangle: www.triangleflightofhonor.com

One hundred and two tired WWII veterans were welcomed home in the atrium of the Raleigh/Durham Airport parking facility, complete with the North Carolina State Marching Band,  majorettes, and cheerleaders.  Also on hand were my wife Karen and I and several hundred cheering family members, friends, and others who just wanted to say thanks.

It was a wonderful, exhilarating, and three Kleenex event.

Next: short articles about the two veterans we went to greet and a story of another veteran I first wrote about for our local newspaper.

Hip Hip Hooray!

Here’s the last medical update on the hip joint replacement.  Almost titled it “Final Medical Update” until I realized that title went a bit too far and might even be thought of as a prediction I certainly don’t want to be suggesting.  Reminds me of a friend’s response to a young fellow who asked him if he’d lived all his life in Wake Forest: “Not yet.”

I must admit I was more than a little worried for a while.  Although everybody was telling me how well I was doing, a few weeks into rehab I remained skeptical about ever being able to sit in anything other than a recliner for more than 10 minutes, much less swing a golf club or a tennis racket.  I was walking without a cane, but my stride resembled that of one of the extras in the film Night of the Living Dead.  That may be too harsh a comparison, but it’s how I felt.

But – good news!  Haven’t tested the tennis yet, and sitting remains a bit of a problem, but yesterday I played golf without pain in the replaced hip joint area.  Picked up right where I’d left off; that is to say my round consisted of the same number of good holes and the usual and predictable disasters on the rest.  Had a great time though, and especially enjoyed the company of fellow masochists out there thrashing away at the landscaping.

I’m doing so well I can hardly bring myself to use my rear-view mirror handicapped hanger, even when the parking lot is crowded.  But I rise to the challenge.  Besides, anybody watching me struggle a bit to get in and out of my car probably wouldn’t begrudge me the parking spot.  I’m told one of the secrets to staying somewhat loose is to avoid sitting still for more than twenty minutes.  Judging from how I have to fold myself in and out of the car and stretch a bit every time  I stand up, I think moving around a little every 20 minutes or so is sound advice.  The word “nimble” may no longer be applied to my movements, if ever it was applied.

Thanks again to family and friends for all the calls, visits, messages, and encouragement!

The Gas Pump Mistaketh Not…..?

Now here’s what I thought was a new way to cheat consumers until I mentioned it to my wife, who responded with the equivalent of: Where’ve you been?  This has been going on for quite a while.  Those machines break and they don’t fix them.

Undaunted, I write today to tell how I was cheated by a gas pump at my last fill-up for my little Nissan Altima.  At the Shell station on South main, just before the Capital Boulevard mess we laughingly call an intersection in Wake Forest, NC, I filled ‘er up with regular.  Not mid-grade or super, but regular.  As always.  Trouble is, my receipt showed I had filled up with mid-grade, at a cost of $3.659, $.16 more per gallon than the regular I thought I had pumped.

You might well be asking at this moment: “Did he press the mid-grade button by mistake?”  Not possible; I’m positive I pressed the regular (87 octane) button.  As evidence I submit that while I filled the tank and when I checked my receipt, the little window above the regular button was the only one with a price and the price was $3.49, same as the sign all gas stations have to let us know what a good deal we’re getting.  The little windows above the mid-grade and super buttons were blank.

When I told the counter person about the apparent error, he was astonished.  “The machine does
not make mistake,” he advised.  “You push wrong button,” he explained.  I told him that I had purchased gas at his establishment many times and was certain I had never purchased any type of gas other than regular.  I also told him about the little window above the regular button.

Following a brief meeting with the manager, I was given a refund of $1.80, an incorrect amount (should have been $2.50), but as I do not normally have a calulator handy when filling my own gas tank, and as I could feel my Irish temper threatening to erupt, I took the money and left.

While a well-known credit card company is proudly informing us on television that we can earn 3-5% cash back, $30-50 for $1,000 spent (WOW!), while the credit card company is charging 12.99% interest ($129.90 interest per year and higher if you have a late payment), could it be that gas stations are pocketing an extra $.16 or so on sales of what their customers think is regular gas?

My advice: when filling your gas tank, get a receipt and check it.  I’m still $.70 short, and times are tough.