ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2017
By: Timothy Kays
When Moine Allgire signed on with the United States Navy in July of 1959, he had no idea that he would be making an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. 58 years later. He also had no idea that in time as an Aviation Ordinance Officer, he would be spending three years in the Gulf of Tonkin, just off the coast of North Vietnam, loading armaments onto F-8 Crusaders. By the time that he was discharged in April of 1969, Moine had served 3 1/2 cruises in Vietnam.
When Moine returned to the United States, he was in for a new conflict, one for which he could not have prepared. This was the 1960s, and the social landscape was in a seemingly constant state of upheaval. Veterans coming home from Vietnam were treated with deplorable contempt by the citizens of the very country that sent him overseas in the first place. American society of today, for the most part, holds a special place of reverence for the fighting men and women of the American armed services that simply did not exist in the 1960s.
It is thereby imperative that younger readers make the distinction between the two social landscapes, and recognize the devastating impact of the insults Moine had to endure from his fellow Americans. It is that contrast that made the work of Flag City Honor Flight not just a pleasant journey, but one of profound healing from the invisible wounds that, even after 48 years, are still afflicting Moine. He doesn’t want to talk about himself. He doesn’t want to go into depth about the wounds inflicted by, not the soldiers of a communist aggressor nation, but by the citizens of the land that he loves. No, Moine wants to talk about Flag City Honor Flight, what they are doing for American veterans, and why.
Far be it from me, or anyone else, to deny him that opportunity. He earned it. Many times over… he earned it. It began when in February, Moine saw an advertisement for Flag City Honor Flight in the Toledo Blade newspaper. They were seeking veterans to make the day trip to Washington D.C. Curious, Moine answered the ad, and soon after was registered. While the purpose of the Honor Flight is found in its name, to honor those who served America, the purpose goes far beyond that. There are Honor Flight hubs throughout the nation, with the Flag City Honor Flight organization serving Northwest Ohio through its hub in Findlay. Their mission and purpose might seem deceptively simple, but there is nothing deceptive about it.
Wanting to recognize those who served, America felt it was important to build a memorial to the service and the ultimate sacrifice of her veterans. The hubs of the Honor Flight Network believe that it is equally as important that those who served actually get to visit and experience their memorial. Makes sense, right? Locally, Flag City Honor Flight is trying to make this trip possible for veterans in Hancock County and surrounding communities. There are a couple catches, though.
Although the Honor Flight is a noble gesture, the fact of the matter is that many of these veterans do not have the financial wherewithal or the physical ability to travel to see the monuments built in their honor. Compounding that, time is of the essence, especially for the veterans of WWII and the Korean War. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII Veterans die each day. Therefore, top priority is given to America’s most senior heroes…the survivors of World War II, and any veteran with a terminal illness who wishes to visit their memorial. The program priorities will naturally transition chronologically to the veterans who served in the Korean War, then the Vietnam War.
“The Flag City Honor Flight is a non-profit 501c3 organization, fully staffed by unpaid volunteers,” Moine said as he read the company brochure. “The status as a non-profit organization means that all donated funds raised are placed in a general fund for Flag City Honor Flights. No state or local funds are received.”
“The success of this flight is truly a community effort,” Moine continued, his voice wavering with emotion. “From the third graders who saved pennies, to donations made at the county fair and Findlay High School fundraising efforts.” It costs Flag City Honor Flight more than $1,000 per veteran for the trip to Washington D.C., yet the veterans making the trip do not pay a dime of the expenses, as it is fully funded by public donations. There are six American Legion posts raising funds for the effort, but with the Toledo Honor Flight hub no longer in service, the Flag City hub has to make up the funding differential for the veterans it has inherited from Toledo. Needless to say, more help is needed…MUCH more, but the payback is priceless.
With the eastern sky beginning to lighten, Moine arrived at the Toledo Express Airport for his big day. “There were eighty veterans,” Moine recalled. “Each veteran had what they called a ‘guardian’. None of us were allowed to walk. We could walk about ten feet. If we wanted to go any further than that, we had to be in a wheelchair, and our guardians provided the motor for us. In my case, I could walk pretty much anywhere that I wanted to, but there was a lot of guys that couldn’t. They HAD to have a wheelchair. In order to not make them feel different, everyone was in a wheelchair.”
Moine continued to describe the service of Flag City Honor Flight. “We flew out of Toledo, to Baltimore, Maryland, then took busses down to D.C. There were three busloads of us, and we got into D.C. about 9:00 in the morning. We had a police escort all the way down, and all the way back to Baltimore. We had a police escort everywhere we went in D.C. We went to the war memorials; the oldest one had the mast from the U.S.S. Maine. We went to all of them…World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and we went to the Arlington Cemetery. I saw Audie Murphy’s tombstone in Arlington.”
While at the Vietnam Memorial, Moine received a surprise honor. A young lady approached him, and asked to speak with him. In broken English, she told Moine that her father would like to speak with him. “I said sure, I’d talk to him,” Moine recalled. “He came over and said, ‘I know why you’re here. I want to take a picture of you that I can take back home.’ They were from the Czech Republic. That meant quite a bit to me.”
When Moine’s group closed out the day at about 5:30 in the afternoon, it was back on the buses for the ride back to Baltimore. Even that simple excursion was draped in honor for the veterans. As Moine explained, “Imagine coming out of D.C. in rush hour traffic on a two-lane highway. There’s a policeman on a motorcycle going right down the middle of those two lanes of traffic. He’s got his siren going, and he’s beating on the windows of the cars, telling them to get out of the road because our buses were coming through. Everyone got off the road…into the grass, or wherever they could get to. We were doing 50 miles per hour, right down the middle of the two-lane road. We were late getting out of Maryland, and it was almost 10:00 when we arrived back in Toledo.”
This eventful day, and everything associated with it, was provided at no charge for eighty veterans by Flag City Honor Flight, its volunteer staff, and financial donations from every age group from elementary school age kids, on up to adulthood. The mission statement of, “To transport America’s veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices,” was faithfully executed with dignity and patriotic pride. There is more to an Honor Flight than just the honor though, and it is at the heart of why Moine wanted to put the spotlight on the Flag City Honor Flight team, and not himself. He’s been carrying the full weight of that reason since 1969.
As stated earlier, the social landscape of the Psychedelic Sixties is a far cry different than that of today. Since 9-11, America has held its service men and women in a higher esteem than people like Moine ever dreamed possible back in 1969. It was painfully difficult for him to explain what he encountered after coming home from his fourth deployment to North Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf. His eyes welling up with tears, and his voice breaking under the pain of a 48-year old unhealed emotional wound, Moine struggled to say, “I couldn’t tell this until now. When I came back home, I got spit on. I got cussed at. I got called, ‘baby killer.’ You don’t forget things like that.”
Moine paused to regroup, and also to return the focus on what Flag City Honor Flight did for him. “These people,” he said, his voice still wavering, “…made us feel like we were someone.” Again, rising tears prompted a pause, after which, with breaking voice Moine said, “For me…I’ve never felt so appreciated.”
After 48 long years, the healing of an invisible but nonetheless excruciating wound was beginning, thanks to Flag City Honor Flight, and a troupe of anonymous donors that Moine will never meet. The therapeutic angle might not jive with the Honor Flight mission statement, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Moine wanted to make sure that you knew that.
Although they are located in Findlay, Flag City Honor Flight will be more than happy to accept your donation. If you are up to not just honoring those who have served America, but also changing the lives that they put on the line for you and me, a donation to Flag City Honor Flight is a perfect way to accomplish both objectives at the same time. You can reach them by phone at (419) 306-9723, on the web at www.flagcityhonorflight.org, via e-mail at email@example.com, or on their Facebook page.
Timothy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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