Saturday, November 15, 2014

World War II Veteran visits his memorial as part of Honor Flight of Maine - By Michelle Libby

World War II Veteran and Raymond resident Pat Lawler, had an amazing experience recently when he was chosen to travel to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial. 
“It was the nicest thing I’ve ever experienced,” Lawler said. The all-expenses paid trip was sponsored by Honor Flight of Maine, which is available for any WWII, Korean or Vietnam Veterans. “I never spent 10 cents on anything,” Lawler said. 

Lawler, 88, was stationed on the USS Intrepid on the flight deck servicing airplanes for the Navy. He also worked for the fire department, called “damage control”. The Intrepid was the most hit ship in the fleet with seven suicide dives, he said. 

Lawler’s wife, Joan, traveled with him as a companion. She paid only $400 for her trip and it was considered a gift for the Honor Flight Network. 

Honor Flight Maine was started by Earl Morse to give Veterans a chance to visit their memorials. 

“According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 600 WWII Veterans died every day. Our time to express our thanks to these most senior heroes is rapidly running out.

Your help is urgently needed to make their last hopes and dreams of finally visiting their memorial a reality.”
Once the Honor Flight reached Baltimore, the fire department extended ladders over the plane to welcome them as they taxied to the gate. Then the veterans were treated to a motorcycle escort from the airport to the hotel, which Lawler described as “gorgeous.”

“It was a wonderful, wonderful thing,” he said. “They took us to all the war memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” Lawler said his favorite part of the trip was seeing the World War II Memorial because he was in that war. “Arlington is shockingly beautiful,” he added. 

Lawler said he had been to Washington before the WWII Memorial was built, but said that experiencing and traveling with a group of Vets made a lot of difference. 

There were wheelchairs available for all Veterans whether they needed it or not and there were attendants watching out for them all of the time, Lawler said. “There were men with no legs and all kinds of situations – they were right there for them,” he said.    

When the plane landed in Portland, the fire department was there to guide them to the terminal and before they exited the plane, there was a mail call and the 50 or so soldiers on the plane were given a pre-arranged packet of letters from their family and friends. “I had tears coming down my face,” Lawler said. 

The Honor Flight Network sponsored a total of 18,000 veterans for similar trips to Washington D.C. last year. For more information or to register a Veteran for a trip, visit

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