PORTLAND -- Their fight against the Axis powers is long over. Today, they are fighting the clock.
World War II veteran Lee Johnson, of Fairview, will be 91 years old in September. He served in the Navy on landing ship tanks that fought off six Japanese invasions.
“The remarkable thing about it was we did not lose one of the men on that ship in all those tours we did,” Johnson said. Time has not been so kind. “Many of them haven’t lasted as long as I have.”
That is why Johnson joins a group of fifty World War II veterans boarding a plane for Washington D.C. The local branch of charity Honor Flight takes veterans to see the monument the nation built for them. Fred Leich also served in the Navy during the war and is taking the four-day trip.
“We have the time to do it but don’t necessarily have the financial wherewithal,” he said.
Honor Flight picks up the tab through donations from travel companies and the public. Only about ten percent of World War II Veterans are still living. Those who survived the deadliest conflict in modern day history and are still around to see the monument built for them in 2004 are now, on average, in their late eighties.
As they tour D.C., the veterans will get a chance to have breakfast with their congressmen and will receive American Flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Dick Tobiason, Chairman of Bend Heroes Foundation which runs the trips says the visit to D.C. has a big impact.
“Now they’re changed, they say, 'No one ever thanked me before. There were no parades for us.'”
The local Honor Flight organization is looking for more veterans to take to D.C. on future trips and donations to sponsor them.