ST. GEORGE – A crowd gathered in front of the Bruce Hurst Baseball Field Thursday evening to welcome 26 World War II veterans returning home from a visit to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The veterans were taken to the memorial by Utah Honor Flight, a group dedicated to taking veterans of the Greatest Generation to see the monument dedicated to their service.
A party consisting of family members, city officials, veterans of other conflicts and area residents gathered along the roadside and cheered as members of the Patriot Guard road by on their motorcycles as they escorted a bus full of the returning veterans. They waved American flags and banners welcoming the aged veterans home.
Wives welcomed their husbands home while also being surrounded by other family members. In other instances the veterans shook the hand of St. George Mayor Jon Pike and City Councilmembers who thanked them for their service. Many handshakes were also exchanged between Vietnam veterans who were with the Patriot Guard and those who had served decades for them.
Among the returning veterans was Bob Covington, originally from St. George, a native “Dixie-ite” he called himself and said the trip was fantastic.
“It was awesome,” Convington said of the trip and seeing the National World War II Memorial, his voice somewhat emotional as he spoke. “It was awesome just to go back.”
Covington was a sailor who served aboard the U.S.S. Manila Bay in the Pacific Theater during the war.
Accompanying Covington on his trip was his daughter, Bobbi Sevy, who was able to go along as a volunteer. She said it was an honor to be a part of her father’s trip to the memorial.
“It was really touching,” she said, adding the WWII veterans were very humble about the whole thing. “They’re just so humble. They think they didn’t do anything special.”
For the veterans, they simply had a job to do and they did it, said Mike Turner, chair of Utah Honor Flight. They don’t see themselves as heroes, yet they are owed a great deal, he said.
When the veterans flew into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas earlier that day, Turner said the veterans received great reception from the TSA, Nevada Highway Patrol and others. It had been like that the entire trip, he said.
“The gratitude the country has for these guys has been amazing,” Turner said.
As part of the trip, the veterans were also given replicas of the WWII Victory Medal, something Turner said many veterans didn’t receive after the war.
Turner gave credit for the veterans being able to see the memorial to Honor Flight’s many partners and sponsors, which included the City of St. George, Dixie State University, the Office of Sen. Mike Lee, state Rep. Brad Last, the Patriot Guard, the United Services Organizations or USO, TSA, and others. He especially thanked Honor Guard’s donors.
“The donors, that’s what makes the whole thing possible,” Turner said.
Utah Honor Flight will be preparing another trip back to Washington, D.C., only this time they are looking to take women WWII veterans.
Anyone who served in the ranks of the WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – or may know a veteran WAVE living in Utah, is encouraged to contact Utah Honor Flight via its website for application information.
Anyone wishing to volunteer for, or donate to Honor Flight can also do so through the website.
Though Utah Honor Flight gives WWII veterans priority, it also serves veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
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