By Kirby Brooks
When La Jolla resident Kenneth Haygood’s phone rang near the end of March and the voice on the other line asked him if he would like to visit the World War II Monument in Washington, D.C., the W.W. II veteran brushed it off as a pitch from a telemarketer. But, much to his surprise, Haygood, a semi-retired psychologist, was reminded that he signed up for the trip in 2008. At the time, Haywood said, he never thought it would result in anything, much less an all-expenses-paid visit to our nation’s capital.
The May trip will be hosted by the Honor Flight Network, a group whose goal is to fulfill the dreams of W.W. II veterans to travel to see the Monument for free. According to the organization’s 2008 statistics, W.W. II veterans are passing away at the rate of some 1,000 per day — many without ever seeing the Monument in their honor.
The inaugural Honor Flight took place in May 2005, when six planes transported W. W. II veterans from Springfield, Ohio to visit the Memorial. That August, the organization paired with Honor Air in Henderson, North Carolina to form the Honor Flight Network. Once the Network has completed its efforts with W.W. II veterans, it will focus on the Korean War, and subsequently, Vietnam War veterans.
Along with 30 other San Diego-area veterans, Haygood will embark upon his Honor Flight tour on May 6. The veterans and 15 guardians (one per two veterans) will meet at San Diego International Airport for a direct flight to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. After checking in at BWI Hilton, they will be treated to a welcome dinner in the Aqua Private Room.
The group of veterans — all wearing their Honor Flight shirts — will gather in the hotel lobby the following morning to embark on their visit to the W.W. II Memorial. The monument unites the Mall joining the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The western end of the W.W. II Memorial features a wall of 4,000 stars, each one commemorating every 100 Americans who died in the war. Designed by Friedrich St. Florian, the 7.4-acre Memorial surrounds the restored Rainbow Pool.
After touring the Memorial, Haygood and others will stop at the Lincoln, Vietnam and Korean Memorials, and then visit Hains Point. There, at the southern tip of East Potomac Park, they will eat lunch and refuel before visiting Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard. The veterans’ whirlwind tour will also feature stops at the Women’s Memorial, Iwo Jima Statue, and the Air Force and Navy Monuments.
Born in 1928, Haygood may seem too young to be a W.W. II veteran, but he served in Japan. When graduating from La Jolla High School, the war orphan (his rather died of injuries sustained in W.W. I six months before his birth) was awarded the American Legion Certificate.
The Certificate stated, “In recognition of the possession of those high qualities of Honor, Courage, Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Companionship and Character which are necessary for the preservation and protection of the fundamental institutions of our government and the advancement of society.” Haygood joked “after being described with such accolades, I felt had to serve my country, so I enlisted in the Army.”