SPOKANE, Wash. -- The first Inland Northwest Honor Flight of the year took off Tuesday morning from Spokane International Airport. Local veterans aboard the flight planned to spend the next two days visiting the memorials built in their honor in Washington, D.C.
The first Honor Flight of 2014 carried 75 veterans of World War II, 13 veterans of the Korean War, and one Vietnam veteran.
The group gathered at the airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday for a send-off ceremony before they begin their trip. Their flight was scheduled to take off at 8 a.m.
One of the World War II veterans aboard the Honor Flight, Bob Lewis, is a former state senator and Spokane City councilman. Lewis, a paratrooper, served at the front of the front lines as a lead scout in the war.
He was severely injured in the “Battle of the Bulge.”
He remembers it as if it were yesterday.
As the tallest man in his company, he was out front as a lead scout. That meant he went first past German lines, armed with a bazooka.
"We were in foxholes along a ledge and machine gun fire from two sources were holding us up, and I got outta my foxhole and gave it to a recruit who was in his first moments of combat - his first combat, and I was in my fourth campaign,” said Lewis. “Anyway, 45 seconds after I got outta the foxhole he took a direct mortar hit."
Shortly after, Lewis felt a sharp pain shooting through him. It was a mortar that grazed his fifth lumbar vertebrae - an injury that left him partially disabled to this day.
Lewis has been to Washington, D.C. about three or four times in his life, but not for several decades. He said he was looking forward to seeing it from a new perspective now -- as a veteran -- and seeing the World War II memorial in person for the first time.
Lewis and the other local veterans aboard the Honor Flight planned to return to Spokane Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. The public was invited and encouraged to come to Spokane International Airport to welcome the veterans back home.
To learn more about Honor Flight, click here