The Inaugural Texas Panhandle Honor Flight: Part 4

Cleatus LeBow, USS Indianapolis Survivor
Cleatus LeBow, USS Indianapolis Survivor
F.G. Crofford, World War ll Veteran
F.G. Crofford, World War ll Veteran

42 World War II veterans from the Texas Panhandle just took a trip of a lifetime to Washington D.C. to experience the memorial erected in their honor.

NewsChannel 10 went on the trip as well, and every morning this week we'll bring you the stories from the inaugural Texas Panhandle Honor Flight.

For World War II Veteran Cleatus LeBow, who survived five days floating in the Pacific Ocean after the Japanese sunk his ship, the USS Indianapolis, the World War II Memorial in Washington DC brought back a rush of memories.

He said, "The memorial represents the 400,000 people killed during WWII.  Reminds me specifically of the 880 men we lost when the Indianapolis was sunk."

In memory of those who died on the USS Indianapolis, and throughout the war, the Panhandle Veterans conducted two emotional wreath laying ceremonies.  One for the battles in the Pacific, and one for the Atlantic.

Veteran FG Crofford said, "It's just one of these memories you won't ever forget probably right on the top of the list."

What made the wreath laying ceremonies so special, though, was the appreciation and respect from everyone else at the memorial.  And that appreciation for our Veterans was everywhere, at the Baltimore-Washington Airport, everyone in the terminal clapped when our Veterans walked through.  At the Korean Memorial, young Cameron Candela, on his own initiative, walked up to our veterans and personally thanked each of them.

He said, "I feel shocked that I'm actually in their presence. All the things they've witnessed, and seen. I'm shocked, and I'm really honored."

But the honor extended both ways with that appreciation, and the grandeur of the memorial itself, giving new perspective to veterans like LeBow.

He says he's "proud and humbled. "  LeBow "never dreamed there would be a memorial such as this to any wars."

He said, "It makes me feel sorry for the families of the people who didn't make it."

And it's the memory of those who didn't make it, like the 880 on the USS Indianapolis, that made the experience of the Honor Flight for LeBow, a trip of a life time.

42 World War ll Veterans and NewsChannel 10 participate in the Texas Panhandle Honor Flight