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.”
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: