Four local veterans were recognized Thursday for participation in a DFW Honor Flight. Troy Gilbreath made the trip to the national’s Capital last fall, but was honored along with Philip Gabbert, Richard Patterson and Gene White on June 9, 2022, on Celebration Plaza at send off celebration for their Honor Flight 47, which departed early Friday morning from DFW.
The four honorees took their places at the front of a small group of chairs placed in front of the courthouse steps, with other veterans who have already participated in the DFW Honor Flight also honored in seats directly behind the day’s honorees. Members of local veterans organizations stood nearby, among community members, who waved USA flags and clapped as each honoree was recognized.
Each of the four honorees was recognized, along with their guardian – the family member of friend selected to accompany them to Washington, D.C. to help in whatever way might be needed.
Veterans Administration Officer/County Treasurer Danny Davis lead the pledges to the USA and Texas flags, and Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Brad Cummings sang the National Anthem. Veteran Clayton McGraw recited “That Ragged Old Flag,” bring a tear to some eyes. League Street Church of Christ Minister offered a prayer for the veterans. Each veteran present who served was asked to stand or, if already standing to give a wave or acknowledgement when the song for their branch of service was played.
Judy Rawson Heaps, a current DFW Honor Flights Board member who has worked with the board since her dad Jean Rawson was selected to make the first DFW Honor Flight from Dallas to D.C. in May of 2009, noted that the flight will be the 47th offered at no cost to the veterans, with others involved volunteering their time to the project. Gabbert, Patterson and White were scheduled to board their plane before dawn from DFW Airport, and will return Saturday night, June 11, 2022. The veterans will tour various veterans memorials and be honored in D.C. at a veterans dinner for their service.
Troy Keith Gilbreath of Yantis, who made the flight in the fall, enjoyed the entire trip, including seeing the Vietnam Memorial for those killed in action in, but observing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Park was the thing that moved him most.
“The changing of the Guard is something to see,” said Gilbreath, who was drafted into the Army and served as a member of the military police in Vietnam from 1966-67.
To get the full impact, people need to see in person the Sentinels in the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) ceremoniously changing guard duty every hour from Oct. 1 to March 31 and every half hour from April 1 through Sept. 30 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Sentinels guard the gravesite of three unknown American service members; a World War I service member placed at rest 101 years ago in the tomb in Arlington National Park, and two unknown soldiers from later wars who were placed in the memorial site in 1958 and 1984.
“It was great. It’s something I wanted to but have never gotten to do. I was proud to do it,” Gilbreath said of the DFW Honor Flight trip he was selected to participate in during the fall.
Gilbreath’s son Trey served as his guardian for the Honor Flight.
“I did not have to worry about nothing, if you needs a chair they’d get it. They fed ya. It was nice,” Gilbreath said.
Rural Sulphur Springs resident Philip Gabbert served in the Air Force for 20 years, servicing equipment. He currently works to support his community. He is involved in the VFW, and noted The Canteen has recently reopened. The VFW is open to anyone, and they are also looking for veterans to join, and always has room for more.
The American Legion, VFW and Auxiliary are partnering with Carter BloodCare in the near future to host a blood drive and membership drive.
“I am here trying to support the community and veterans as much as possible,” Philip Gabbert said.
Gabbert will be accompanied by his son, Ben, who is flying in from Denver. He said he put out the word to his family to see who wanted to go. Ben said he felt it fitting he serve as his father’s guardian as he is a security officer at home.
The occasion will be a birthday flight for the pair. Philip Gabbert’s birthday is the 11th and Ben’s is the 12th, so they’ll get to experience it together.
Sulphur Springs resident Gene White retired as a SMSGT after 25 years service in the Air Force. He served from 1961 to 1986, including time stationed in England, Japan and Crete. During those years, he got married and they raised a family. His wife made the moves with him, and always made him feel like he was home wherever they were.
He says he feels humbled to be among the veterans participating in Honor Flight 47. While he’s had an opportunity to tour many of the memorials in D.C., he is looking forward to going back. The trip before was the best trip.
White’s daughter, Linda Howell will be accompanying him on the Honor Flight as his guardian.
Sulphur Springs residents Richard Patterson joined the Army along with his two brothers, who were told if they joined they would not have to go to a war zone. They kept their word. When the rest of the company was sent to Vietnam, all three brothers were sent to Korea.
On the way over, Patterson said, they spent 23 days on a ship in weather and seas so rough they couldn’t go on deck and it was hard to eat. They came back to the US on a turbo prop plane. The flight was so bad, he swore he’d never get on another plane. In fact, he admitted he was still a little nervous about flying to reach D.C.
Patterson served from 1962 to 1963, and spent 13 months in Korea. He said when he and his twin returned home, they were stationed in Illinois on Lake Michigan. They stayed on fishing boats but didn’t do much fishing, he said.
He’s been to D.C. before and enjoyed it so he was sure he’d enjoy this weekend there as well. He said he couldn’t talk his son into going with him on the Honor Flight, so Troy Tutle is serving as his veteran guardian.