TYLER — U.S. Navy veteran Joe Ramirez of Longview said Thursday that he was looking forward to spending the next few days being part of the 19th Brookshire’s and Super 1 Foods Heroes Flight.
The Korean War veteran was among other veterans from across East Texas who gathered Thursday at the Tyler Regional Pounds Airport to fly to Washington, D.C., for a three-day tour of the nation’s capital before returning Saturday.
Ramirez served on the USS Boxer during the Korean War from 1948 to 1952. He began his service as a seaman and rose in ranks to become an airman.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying myself, along with my wife, with everything we do up there,” Ramirez said.
His duties in the war were preparing aircraft for combat and manning 5-inch cannons. Ramirez said he got the privilege to visit where the Boxer went before the war.
Also in the group is U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran Donny Ingram of Tyler. Ingram came out of the Army as a sergeant for the 1st Cavalry Division.
He recalled the opposition to Vietnam soldiers and those in the service being told not to wear their uniforms when coming back, though he said he did wear his.
“Vietnam veterans, we’re not usually revered by anybody,” he said.
Ingram was stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Vietnam. He worked in the artillery battalion and as a supply sergeant. He fought in the Battles of Hue and Quang Tri and in the Tet Offensive.
Though he was drafted into the military, he said he is thankful he served.
“It gave me more of a sense of patriotism,” Ingram said. “I’m glad I went, now that it’s over.”
While in Washington, D.C., veterans will visit the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Air and Space Museum and memorials honoring the U.S. Marines, Navy, Air Force, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Vietnam and Korean War veterans. They also will tour the U.S. Capitol building with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the Vietnam veteran wall and seeing the names of some buddies there,” Ingram said.
U.S. Navy veteran Paul Jones of Marshall also is a part of the group that took off from Tyler. He served during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1970 as a seaman for Beachmaster Unit 1 and Naval Beach Group 1.
Jones was stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in California; Yokosuka, Japan; and Vietnam, including Cua Viet River and the demilitarized zone.
His jobs included beachmaster, assisting with amphibious assaults with the Marines, directing landing craft carrying ammunition and supplies, and evacuation of casualties.
He fought in the Operation Swift, Valiant Hunt and Operation Bold Mariner. He received the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Combat Action Ribbon.
In the past, the flight included only veterans who served in World War II. This flight adds veterans from the Vietnam War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In total, 28 veterans are attending the tour. It includes 12 Korean War veterans, seven Vietnam War veterans (including one who also served in the Gulf War), five World War II veterans and four veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The flight took off from Tyler heading to Lafayette, Louisiana, to pick up the remaining attendees. Each of the veterans was given flags in a preflight ceremony, which they then gave to their families before boarding the plane.
During the ceremony, students from All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Members of the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles drill team attended the ceremony and also traveled to Washington.