On June 21, Julius Mitchell of Cropwell and John Woodard of Talladega boarded what will likely be one of the last honor flights. Altogether, the flight included 84 veterans and 171 people total, including caregivers, escorts and paramedics.
Mitchell and Woodard sat down outside the Hall of Heroes in the Osborne-Armstrong Public Library. Both men expressed appreciation to Hall of Heroes Committee Chairwoman Bobbye Trammell for the work she has done before discussing their flight.
“It was fantastic,” Mitchell said.
“It was the most thrilling thing I have experienced, bar none,” Woodard added. “We got off the plane in Baltimore, and it was like the whole Navy was there to greet us. And it was even better when we got back to Birmingham. It made tears come to my eyes. My nephew said he got the chills.”
While both men said they were glad for the opportunity to visit the monument to their achievements, the trip was really more about “honoring the ones who didn’t get to come home,” Woodward said. “You look at the Gold Star Wall and you realize that every one of those 4,000 gold stars represents 100 people that didn’t get to come home.”
Rachel Clinkscales of the Gold Star Wives served as a volunteer escort, along with Mike Royer and Robert Nivens. Royer is airing a two-part series on the trip, Mitchell said.
“It was a fantastic trip,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t realize how much so in the beginning, but then I realized that I would never have been able to see this without the honor flight.”
“And I got to meet Julius, who I had not ever met before,” Woodard said. “And I got to meet some veterans who said they had worked with my brother in Cullman.”
Both men served in the Pacific Theater.
“I was a land sailor,” Woodard said. “I was part of a supply unit, and we spent a lot of time in Australia and the Admiralty Islands. I enjoyed it so much I stayed in for three years.”
Mitchell said he served “from 1945 to 1946 in the Philippines. Back then, we were the only unit that didn’t have a number. It’s the 23rd now. I can remember going three months without getting any mail at all, and then all the sudden I got 90 in one day. Sad thing is, I didn’t have time to read them all.”
Mitchell said he ended his service with the First Cavalry as “General Chase’s private chef.”
Woodard concluded by saying, “All servicemen deserve credit, but when we fought World War II, we fought to win for our country. Maybe it’s different now for some of the others. But I respect them all.”
Contact Chris Norwood at email@example.com.