2019 Nolin RECC Honor Flight Veterans Bill Hickey and Dan Thompson, photos by Tim Webb
As a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, Nolin RECC sponsors two local veterans on the Touchstone Energy Honor Flight each year. The Honor Flight gives veterans an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. for a day. The veterans see their war memorials and other sites and are treated to a welcome home honoring them for the heroes they are. Veterans wishing to be considered for an Honor Flights should get their name on the waiting list at www.honorflightky.org.
Honor Flight 2019
By: Sarah Fellows
Hundreds of people greeted the 72 veterans as they walked with their guardians, led by a band of bagpipes, through the Blue Grass Airport terminal. It was a hero’s welcome. For many, it was the first they had experienced.
Among those veterans were Mr. Dan Thompson and Mr. William Hickey who were sponsored on the Touchstone Energy Honor Flight by Nolin RECC in September.
Dan Thompson served in the Marines and left for Vietnam in February 1966. He worked mostly on guard duty while in Vietnam and helped with the transport of ammunition and other items. Like many others who served during that time, Thompson did not experience a warm public welcome when he came home from his service. “We moved to Hodgenville probably in the early 70’s… we never told anybody we’d been in the service, it just wasn’t the thing to do. And then later on, of course, they started having welcome home parties… to me it was just a little bit too late.”
Thompson left his new wife, Connie, at home when he went to Vietnam. “I didn’t want to get married at the time, only because you don’t know what’s going to happen. But… we did, and it’s been great.”
Fellow Nolin Honor Flight veteran William Hickey also left a new bride in the states when he followed his orders to Vietnam. “I brought her out to San Diego… we were going to be together maybe a month before being deployed, and then the mission changed. So, I had a 20-year-old wife who couldn’t drive a standard shift vehicle, in San Diego, California… stuck,” said Hickey.
Hickey was deployed twice to Vietnam as an aircraft mechanic in the Navy. After leaving the Navy, he decided to join the Army in 1975 and retired in 1999.
This past September, Nolin sent both Thompson and Hickey on the one-day tour of the war memorials in Washington D.C. for veterans. This was the ninth Honor Flight sponsored by Nolin RECC and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.
The day started with an early-morning flight from Lexington. The group was greeted at Reagan Washington National Airport by a cheering crowd and a U.S. Military Academy chorus serenading them with patriotic songs. A police escort then guided the group’s buses to stops that included the Air Force Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
Thompson reflected on his experience, “I’ll tell you I was blown away, all the time and effort that was put into just this one Flight. It came together like clockwork… the welcoming and sendoff to the welcome back. The statue of Iwo Jima was wow… huge. They allowed the Marines to disembark first from the bus, and (gave us) a few minutes to take it in. The fact that my son Matthew, a Marine vet, was my guardian was so cool, a memory set in stone. The visit to the Vietnam Wall was very heavy on my heart and moving to say the least. It was a trip of a life time for sure.”
Hickey was grateful for the entire experience as well, “bringing all the veterans together from all the branches was a moving experience for me as I overheard their stories of the times they shared while in Vietnam. Being in the military for 30 years surrounded by active duty soldiers is one thing, but being around fellow sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines from the Vietnam era was quite different than I ever expected it would be. Seeing and feeling at the same time the deep respect each and every one had for one another was great. It was like everyone connected in some way. It was like a family reunion.”
At the end of the action-packed day, Thompson and Hickey arrived with their Honor Flight companions back in the Lexington airport to cheers, music, handshakes, salutes and flags being waved. Friends and family, supporters from co-ops and many others gave these heroes the welcome home many had been denied.
It was an honor long overdue.