Four local veterans were recognized Thursday for their participation in a DFW Honor Flight. Troy Gilbreath made the trip to the nation’s capital last fall, but was honored with Philip Gabbert, Richard Patterson and Gene White on June 9, 2022, in Celebration Plaza during the celebration of sending off their honor flight 47, who 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 steps of the courthouse, with other veterans who have previously participated in the DFW Honor Flight also honored in seats directly behind the winners of the day. Members of local veterans’ organizations stood nearby among community members, waving American flags and cheering as each honoree was recognized.
Each of the four winners was recognized, along with their guardian – a friend’s family member chosen to accompany them to Washington, D.C. to help in any way.
Veterans Administration Officer/County Treasurer Danny Davis led the United States and Texas flag pledges, and Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Brad Cummings sang the National anthem. Veteran Clayton McGraw recited “That Old Tattered Flag,” bringing tears to some eyes. League Street Church of Christ Minister offered a prayer for veterans. Each veteran in attendance who served was asked to stand or, if already standing, to wave or give thanks when their branch of service song was played.
Judy Rawson Heaps, a current DFW Honor Flight Board member who has worked with the board since her father Jean Rawson was selected to fly the first DFW Honor Flight from Dallas to DC in May 2009, noted that the flight will be the 47th offered at no cost to veterans, with others involved volunteering for the project. Gabbert, Patterson and White were scheduled to board their plane before dawn from DFW airport and will return Saturday evening, June 11, 2022. The veterans will visit various veterans memorials and be honored in DC during a veterans dinner for their service.
Troy Keith Gilbreath of Yantis, who flew in the fall, enjoyed the whole trip, especially seeing the Vietnam Memorial for those killed in action, but watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Park. the thing that touched him the most.
“The Changing of the Guard is something to see,” said Gilbreath, who was drafted into the military and served as a member of the military police in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967.
To get the full impact, people should see in person the sentries of the US 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) who ceremoniously change guard every hour from October 1 to March 31 and every half hour from April 1 to September 30 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Sentinels guard the graves of three unknown American servicemen; a World War I serviceman laid to rest 101 years ago in the Arlington National Park grave, and two unknown soldiers from later wars who were placed at the memorial site in 1958 and 1984.
“It was great. It was something I wanted but never got to do. I was proud to do it,” Gilbreath said of the DFW Honor Flight trip he was selected to take part in. in autumn.
Gilbreath’s son, Trey, served as his tutor for the honor flight.
“I didn’t have to worry about anything, if you need a chair they’ll get it. They fed you. It was good,” Gilbreath said.
Rural Sulfur Springs resident Philip Gabbert served in the Air Force for 20 years, maintaining equipment. He is currently working to support his community. He is involved with VFW and noted that The Canteen recently reopened. He said the VFW is also looking for veterans to join and always has room for more.
The American Legion, VFW and Auxiliary are soon partnering with Carter BloodCare to host a blood drive and membership drive.
Gabbert will be accompanied by his son, Ben, who arrives from Denver. Gabbert said he felt it was appropriate for his son, who is a security guard, to be the one accompanying him on Honor Flight 47.
The occasion will be an anniversary flight for the couple. Philip and Ben Gabbert’s birthdays are the 11th and 12th, so the trip is an anniversary occasion that they will experience together.
Sulfur Springs resident Gene White retired as an SMSGT after 25 years of service in the Air Force. He served from 1961 to 1986, including postings to England, Japan and Crete. During these years he got married and they started a family. His wife moved with him and always made him feel at home wherever they were.
He says he feels humbled to be among the veterans on Honor Flight 47. Although he has had the opportunity to visit many memorials in DC, he looks forward to returning. The trip before was the best trip.
White’s daughter, Linda Howell, will accompany him on the honor flight as a guardian.
Sulfur Springs local Richard Patterson joined the military along with his two brothers, who were told that if they joined they wouldn’t have to go to a war zone. He served from 1962 to 1963 and spent 13 months in Korea. Along the way, Patterson said, they spent 23 days on a ship in weather and seas so choppy they couldn’t get on deck and it was hard to eat. They came back on a turboprop. The flight was so bad that he swore to himself he would never get on another plane. In fact, he admitted he was still a little nervous about flying to DC.
Patterson said he’s been to DC before and enjoyed it, so he’s sure he’ll enjoy that weekend there as well. He said he couldn’t convince his son to go with him, so Troy Tuttle is his veteran tutor.