A group of 74 veterans visited the National Archives in Washington D.C., on September 18 and they viewed the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The veterans’ visit was facilitated by the Utah Honor Flight, part of a national network that provides veterans from the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, along with seriously ill or injured veterans from other eras, with all-expense-paid visits to the nation’s capital. This was the first honor flight to visit the National Archives since the program temporarily shut down in early 2020, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Two of the veterans and their escorts were from here in Sanpete County, Reed Roberts of Centerfield and Rey Sorensen of Manti. Their trips were made possible by a candidate whom ran for Miss Sanpete’s Outstanding Teen, Maycie Reese.
Maycie is the daughter of Cory and Julie Reese of Mt. Pleasant and a freshman at North Sanpete High School. As her social impact initiative, Maycie decided to bring awareness and raise money for the flight. She chose this because she watched her Grandpa Mickelsen, who is a Vietnam veteran, go on the flight three years ago.
“It completely changed his life,” said her mom and his daughter Julie. “Watching that change him, she knew how important this is.”
The Miss Sanpete County program requires each candidate competing for the job of Miss Sanpete County or Outstanding Teen to pick a social impact initiative that the girl can focus on for their upcoming year of service. The candidates are encouraged to work on their initiative leading up to the competition, regardless if they win or not.
Abby Ivory, pageant director said that Maycie’s choice to raise funds for the Utah Honor Flight was an excellent choice. Her willingness to use her talent as a violin player and to help send several Sanpete veterans back to Washington is an achievement that will leave a lasting legacy in the county.
Maycie was able to raise enough money through her efforts to send both Roberts and Sorensen along with two others on the flight.
She has currently stopped raising money, but she has some big plans to continue raising money for veterans. Her mom says that she doesn’t think Maycie will ever stop raising money for the veterans. “Doing this has changed her life.”
One of the flight participants, Roberts says his service in the United States Army brought him the best thing in his life, his wife of 55 years, Josie. They met in El Paso in 1966, while he was stationed in Ft. Bliss, before he was sent to Vietnam.
Roberts’ service brought him another amazing experience with the Utah Honor Flight to Washington D.C
Reed’s daughter, Kiersten Smith, filled out the online application for her Dad. She is a third grade teacher who directs a Veterans Day program each year. Roberts was supposed to take the flight in November 2019 but it was canceled due to COVID. Roberts’ son Steve, a Desert Storm veteran, was his escort for the flight.
“They had a wheelchair available for every veteran,” said Reed, and estimated that about 65 veterans used them. Roberts hasn’t been able to walk very far since his hip replacement surgery two years ago. Steve (who is also an EMT) commented that medics were among the volunteer helpers. Each veteran was given two blue Honor Flight t-shirts and a hat with the name of the conflict they served in. The escorts were given gray Honor Flight t-shirts.
The first stop was the World War II memorial. There were 12 WWII veterans in the group. The youngest one was 94 and the oldest one celebrated his 103rd birthday the day of the flight. In the 22 months since the last Honor Flight, thirteen veterans scheduled for honor flights had died. They were honored by a bugler playing taps. After the ceremony, the group was given an hour and a half to visit other memorials. Steve said, “Everywhere we went people would shake hands, or stop and clap for the veterans.”
At the Vietnam memorial Roberts found the name of his 1963 Snow College roommate, Wendell C. Davis, of Wales.
Day two the tour took them to Arlington cemetery, where the group watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Steve reported that the Tomb Guards scuffed their feet to honor the veterans as they passed. After the ceremony, a Tomb Guard spoke to their group and answered questions. Before leaving the cemetery, the veterans were shown the memorial to the Challenger, Audie Murphy’s (most decorated soldier from WWII) burial plot, and President Kennedy’s memorial.
The group made quick visits to the Air Force memorial, the National Archives and the Navy Memorial before heading to Fort McHenry in Maryland, where they witnessed the raising of a flag nearly as big as Utah’s Big Betsy. Each bus had four helpers: one medic, two volunteers and one in charge. At every stop they got off the bus first and set everything up before the veterans got off.
Rey Sorensen, a World War II veteran from Manti, was grateful to be able to go on Utah Honor Flight and trip to Washington, D.C.
Sorensen was a senior at Manti High School in 1944 and desired to serve his country during this critical period of World War II. A Marine recruiting officer stopped him and Sorensen signed up for the Marines. He was permitted to finish out High School, often wearing his uniform, and went to boot camp at San Diego on April 6, 1944. During boot camp, he was the top marksman in his platoon of 60 men, earning him a Sharpshooter medal.
During the trip, Sorensen loved all of the sights and three of those sites he mentioned were the Lincoln memorial, the United States Archives where the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are located and Fort McHenry, where the flag that inspired the national anthem was flown.
Sorensen said the Marine Corps’ Iwo Jima flag raising monument was an epic tribute to the spirit of the Corps and he is proud to be a U. S. Marine. During the flight there was a mail call and he received plenty of messages from family and school children.
During the trip, the Honor Flight veterans were approached by strangers who felt strongly about thanking them for their service to the country, many taking pictures of the group as they toured.
The veterans sang God bless America on the flight home and again in the airport after arriving. When the plane landed late Saturday night in Utah, the lights at the airport were red white and blue to greet them. As well as family, groups like the Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion, and Battlin’ Betties were there to meet them. The welcoming crowd was much larger than expected and created a line that surrounded the baggage claim area in the airport. Many veterans were moved to tears as they went through the crowd.