Local veteran takes Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.
Joseph Doyon and 47 other WWII veterans are treated like heroes
Joseph Doyon is a proud World War II Navy veteran who recently participated in an Honor Flight trip to visit Washington, D.C.
The Bend Heroes Foundation works with the Honor Flight Network to give veterans free four-day trips to honor them and to give them a close-up look at monuments and museums in the Capital.
Joseph, a Summerfield resident who applied for the program and was chosen for this particular trip, was one of 48 WWII veterans plus 48 companions and eight staff people who visited the Capital Sept. 19 to 23.
"A couple of my friends had gone, and one said to me, 'If you ever get the chance, apply to go,'" said Joseph, who had not been to Washington, D.C., since the early 1950s.
Prior to the trip, members of the group got together and were given matching shirts emblazoned with WWII insignias plus hats with their names embroidered on them.
"This was very effective when we showed up at airport concourses, hotels and monuments," Joseph said.
He noted that some of the vets needed caregivers to push their wheelchairs or help them get around and the helpers were provided free of charge, but since he is able-bodied, he chose his daughter Diane to accompany him and paid $1,000 for her portion of the trip.
"I was lucky because I could walk almost everywhere," Joseph said.
Arriving in Washington, D.C., "we were greeted by several flag-holding U.S. military men, and at the main lobby, there were about three dozen uniformed men standing at attention and saluting as we passed - very impressive," Joseph said.
"As we walked the length of the terminal to the baggage pick-up area, we were greeted by hundreds of people clapping, saluting and saying, 'Thank you for your service to our country.'"
On Friday morning, the group headed to the Capitol, where Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden met them for breakfast, and Walden later read a satement about their visit and a list of their names into the Congressional Record.
After a tour, the group headed to the massive WWII Memorial located between the Lincoln and Washington monuments, where there are individual pillars for each state; on one wall are 400 gold stars representing the more than 405,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives during that war.
After a group photo, each veteran's name was called out, and his personal helper presented him with a tri-folded American flag that had flown over the Capitol on July 4, 2012.
"After my daughter, Diane, handed me the flag, she gave me a big kiss, which brought clapping from the audience," Joseph said.
The WWII Memorial was dedicated in 2004.
"Our next sojourn was to the Smithsonian Air Museum, where we saw aircraft of every description - the B-29 Enola Gay and the R-71 Blackbird," Joseph said. "The most impressive piece to me was the retired space shuttle 'Discovery' with some of the 2-inch-thick heat-shield shingles still missing."
Other stops included the Navy and Merchant Marine monuments plus the Coast Guard and Air Force memorials.
The Navy Memorial includes a plaza that features Stanley Bleifeld's famous statue called "The Lone Sailor," which is a tribute to all personnel of the sea services.
As far as Joseph is concerned, the sculptor got it right.
"The Navy Memorial was of special interest to me due to the huge sailor statue's bell-bottom trousers, P-coat, white hat and sea bag - that brought back old memories," Joseph said.
He added that the Lincoln Memorial, dedicated in 1922, with the morning sun shining through the pillars and reflecting off the glowing Georgia white marble was an impressive sight as was the black-walled Vietnam War memorial with the names of 58,000 American casualties etched on it.
Joseph also was impressed with the Marine Corps Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial and dedicated to all the Marines who have given their lives in defense of the U.S. since 1775.
The statue was dedicated in 1954 and depicts the recapturing of the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.
The Iwo Jima flag-raising monument was impressive with its 32-foot-high figures holding a 60-foot bronze flagpole," Joseph said.
"A must-see is the Korean War Veterans Memorial where statues of soldiers from the various service branches are plodding through rain-soaked rice paddies."
That memorial was dedicated in 1995.
Arlington National Cemetery encompasses 200 acres and holds the remains of 300,000 people.
In 1948, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (the Old Guard) posted a sentinel to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns, a practice that is still active today.
"At the Tomb of the Unknowns, to witness the changing of the guard ceremony is beyond the words one needs to describe the feelings one gets viewing this event," Joseph said. "Silence and reverence were required and enforced.
"The guard on duty pacing in front of the tomb takes 21 deliberate steps, faces the tomb for 21 seconds, turns around and stands at attention for 21 seconds before his next 21 steps. The 21 steps and hesitation represent a 21-gun salute given to the country's highest dignitaries. It was a tear-jerker."
The group was wined and dined for breakfast and dinner, with lunch served on the bus most days to eliminate long restaurant stops.
"The President drove by with a police escort going very fast one day," Joseph said. "There were two limousines so no one would know which car he was in."
When the group arrived back at the Washington, D.C., airport, "again we were greeted by another large group of uniformed people holding flags and saluting us," Joseph said. "On arrival at the Portland airport, we were greeted by the largest conglomerate of well-wishers - the Army, Navy, Marines, city officials and the Vietnam Motorcycle Team that attends veteran funerals and events."
Joseph said he "is so thankful for this trip" and added, "This was an amazing trip. It was the trip of a lifetime."
Joseph's original story appeared in the February 2012 issue of the Regal Courier that featured his role in a 36-foot-assault boat that was part of the Allied invasion of Europe at Omaha Beach on D-Day. His unit also participated in assault crossings of the Rhine River, and he received a Bronze Star Medal for preventing German prisoners of war from escaping from a sinking boat that he was in charge of.