Honor Flight: News 8 rides along with WWII and Korean War veterans for a trip of a lifetime
Watch the weekend long journey with San Diego veterans to Washington, D.C., including visits to the memorials.
Author: Shauni Lyles, Digital Content Producer
Published: 1:51 PM PDT June 27, 2019
Updated: 1:51 PM PDT June 27, 2019
ON-THE-HOMEFRONT 10 Articles

SAN DIEGO — News 8 was invited to join World War II and Korean War veterans on a flight of a lifetime to Washington, D.C. Honor Flight is a nonprofit that sends WWII and now Korean War vets on a trip to visit their respective memorials.

Honor Flight San Diego started flying veterans in 2010 and to date has flown over 1,400 veterans to D.C. at no cost to them. Founder, Dave Smith, said “it is the most honorable thing I have ever done in my entire life.” He started the San Diego hub in 2009 after he took his WWII USMC father on what was called a "Lone Eagle" flight.

News 8's Abbie Alford and photojournalist Mike Edison joined San Diego's war heroes as they embarked on their emotional journey on Friday, May 3 and were there to welcome them home when they returned on Sunday, May 5. Veterans say the trip, which lasted three days, is more than visiting the memorials built for their service and sacrifice, it is also a time for them to have some closure, meet new veterans and share their stories.

There is another Honor Flight scheduled for October. If you would like to donate to this effort, click here.

Below are excerpts from News 8's Honor Flight special, including the complete video reports.

EXPLORE

Honor Flight: News 8 rides along with WWII and Korean War veterans for a trip of a lifetime

ON-THE-HOMEFRONT
Chapter 1

Honor Flight trip preparation

WWII and Korean War vets get ready for their trip to D.C.

On Monday evening, Honor Flight team leaders filled care packages with special memorabilia for the 83 World War II and Korean War veterans about to embark on a trip of a lifetime.

“It is really nice now to be able to share their history, especially the World War II veterans because time is critical for them,” said Saundra Cima, Honor Flight San Diego team leader and director.

For the past nine years, Honor Flight San Diego has flown over 1,000 World War II and Korean Veterans – many who are in their 90s and 100s and part of the Greatest Generation – to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials. 

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Honor Flight: WWII and Korean War veterans prepare for trip of a lifetime to Washington D.C.

Chapter 2

Trip of a lifetime takes flight

Veterans honored during flight

A trip of a lifetime kicked off Friday for some San Diego local WWII and Korean War veterans.

They took off early Friday morning for Washington, D.C. as part of San Diego Honor Flight and planned to visit monuments and memorials dedicated to them and their fallen comrades.

One of the veterans on the trip was one of the first female commanding officers in the U.S. Navy.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Honor Flight: WWII and Korean War veterans honored during their flight

Chapter 3

War vets visit nation's capital

Veterans visit monuments and memorials

A trip of a lifetime continued Saturday when local World War II and Korean War veterans toured all the war memorials and national monuments in Washington D.C.

The group woke up before 4:00 a.m. to see the sun rise over the World War II memorial. From there they traveled all around the nation's capital to see the many beautiful war memorials and monuments including the US Marine Corps War Memorial and the Woman in Military Service for America Memorial.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Honor Flight: Local veterans visit monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital

Chapter 4

Honor Flight returns home

The public celebrates WWII and Korean War vets return

Following a busy and emotional journey to Washington D.C., World War II and Korean War veterans on Honor Flight San Diego returned home Sunday afternoon. They were welcomed at San Diego International Airport by a crowd of several hundred people including family, military personnel and community members who gathered to honor them.

News 8's Abbie Alford and Mike Edison went along for the trip of a lifetime which departed Friday with 83 veterans including one of the first female commanding officers in the U.S. Navy. The group included veterans who fought in World War II and the Korean War, many of whom had never been able to visit the war memorials that were built in their honor.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Welcome home! Honor Flight San Diego returns from Washington D.C.

Chapter 5

Happy Birthday to a hero

Only woman on Honor Flight turns 100

The only woman who was onboard Honor Flight San Diego 2019 lives in Riverside and celebrated her 100th birthday on May 14. Evelyn Dene Sooy, who goes by Dene, is also one of the first naval officers.  

Sooy joined the U.S. Navy on July 4, 1943 and served until 1945. She served in World War II and was in the Naval reserves from 1946-1979.

While in the Navy, Sooy was a cryptologist in communications for the Navy where she created code to transport orders to shops.  

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Happy birthday to a hero: Only woman on Honor Flight San Diego celebrating 100th birthday

Chapter 6

War veterans tell their stories

America's heroes from WWII and the Korean War

Honor Flights are filled with America’s heroes from World War II and the Korean War. The most recent Honor Flight San Diego had 83 veterans - each with their own remarkable story.  

In December 1941, America officially entered World War II - the second deadliest war.  

"The last three months of prison camp was not good,” said WWII Air Force veteran Lee Russell. “I got shot down in October and they started moving us around in April."  

The Greatest Generation veteran 96-year-old Russell says in October 1944 his B-25 plane was shot down in Northern Italy on his 70th mission - his last mission before going home - and was a prisoner of war in the Stalag Luft 3 German Camp.  

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Stories of heroism from Honor Flight San Diego

Chapter 7

Honor Flight San Diego team

Volunteers make trip of a lifetime possible for vets

News 8 shared remarkable stories about our local World War II and Korean War veterans who participated in Honor Flight San Diego and their trip wouldn't be possible without the volunteers behind the nonprofit who dedicate many hours to make the trip possible for our heroes.   

When 83 war veterans loaded the Honor Flight charter plane, one of the team leaders - a military daughter and wife - Mel Taitano reflected on the unforgettable experience.  

"Every time I leave the flight my heart is always full,” she said.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Honor Flight San Diego team makes trip of a lifetime possible for war veterans

Chapter 8

Honoring WWII veteran

WWII vet on tour of honor laid to rest

A WWII veteran on Honor Flight San Diego was laid to rest Thursday in Detroit, Michigan. Honor Flight San Diego said Frank Manchel, 95, collapsed and passed away during the return flight to San Diego surrounded by his military brothers.

Manchel was visiting the memorials with Honor Flight and his 93-year-old WWII brother Jerome "Jerry" Manchel who flew down from Michigan to participate in the tour of honor together. He was a tech sergeant in the U.S. Army and was a cryptographer. News 8's Abbie Alford and photographer Mike Edison were embedded in the flight and interviewed the Manchel brothers at the WWII memorial on Saturday, May 4. Frank Manchel said he was enjoying the trip, "I think it’s terrific, it’s something you don't see that often.” This was Manchel's first time visiting the WWII memorial, which was finished in 2004 and had just celebrated it 15th anniversary.

"I think it's very important because it's not for us, but it's for the rest of the world,” said Manchel.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: Honoring WWII veteran Frank Manchel

Chapter 9

WWII vet visits memorial

San Diego students raise money for WWII vet

World War II veteran Andy Huerta was 17 years old when he joined the Navy as a junior at Calexico High School in 1943.

“I was 18 years old when I was a petty officer,” said Andy. “Every shipmate that I had – they're probably all gone.”  

Andy’s younger brother 87-year-old Humberto Huerta, who says he always wanted to be a Marine, fought in the Korean War.  

The Huerta brothers on Wednesday were surrounded by the students in Thurgood Marshall Middle School’s Philanthropists Club. The club had a near unanimous vote to make Honor Flight their chosen charity to raise funds for this year.

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist

RELATED: San Diego students raise money to send WWII vet on Honor Flight with brother

Chapter 10

Honor Flight viewing party

News 8's Memorial Day special for Honor Flight San Diego

On Memorial Day weekend, inside Studio A at KFMB stations, News 8's Abbie Alford and photojournalist Mike Edison unveiled their 30 minute Honor Flight San Diego special.

In the audience were veterans who took part in Honor Flight San Diego.

All those who attended agreed that their journey seen on the screen has brought them closer to each other. 

- Abbie Alford, Reporter and Mike Edison, Photojournalist 

RELATED: News 8 hosts Honor Flight San Diego viewing party