— The five Putnam County veterans who went on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. on June 3 were (l-r) Jamex Baxter, Bert Diemer, Tom Brinkman, Urban Lauf, Vince Westrick, and George Hellman. (Photo submitted)
— The five Putnam County veterans who went on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. on June 3 were (l-r) Jamex Baxter, Bert Diemer, Tom Brinkman, Urban Lauf, Vince Westrick, and George Hellman. (Photo submitted)

UTNAM COUNTY — Five Putnam County veterans took a special trip on Tuesday, June 3. They were part of the Flag City Honor Flight hub that flew to Washington D.C. to visit numerous veterans memorials, Arlington Cemetery and the Air Force Museum.

Taking the trip were World War II veterans George Hellman, Fort Jennings and James Baxter, Pandora; and Korean veterans Bert Diemer, Ottawa; Urban Lauf, Ottawa; and Vince Westrick, Miller City.

“Everywhere we went people were thanking us for our service,” said Baxter. “Adults and kids would come up and shake our hands.”

“I enjoyed the whole thing,” said Lauf. “It was overwhelming when we returned to the hanger at the Toledo airport. They had a ceremony and so many people to welcome us home. It was a very emotional moment.”

The men left from Findlay with an escort of law enforcement to the Toledo Airport. Prior to boarding the plane the veterans were given breakfast and a special ceremony. The veterans were then flown to Baltimore Airport where they boarded buses and were first taken to the World War II Memorial. The veterans also visited the Korean Memorial and Vietnam Memorial.

‘They had a guardian for each veteran,” said Diemer. His guardian, Ann Bosse, Findlay, is the niece of Hellman, who was also on the tour.

“She was great,” said Diemer. “She has done this before and her own daughter Nicole Bosse also went along as a guardian/chaperone.

“Everything was outstanding,” Diemer said. While at the Vietnam wall he looked up an Ottawa veteran who had died in the Vietnam war.

“Every where we stopped there were soldiers and sailors coming up to greet us and thank us,” said Hellman. He said he had mixed emotions about going there since he had been there before, but acknowledged this was a trip he will never forget.

“When we returned to Toledo there was about 500-600 people there to greet us,” he said. “it was amazing.”

Brinkman said the last time he was to Washington D.C. the World War II monument was under construction and boarded up.

“This time I got to see the monument,” he said. “I really appreciate what everyone did. They were such a nice bunch of people.”

Baxter said the mail call that was held upon their return to Toledo was a surprising and special conclusion to the trip.

‘All the veterans got a canvas bag filled with special things and messages people had sent in,” he said. He found out the Honor Flight staff contacts friends and family members of the veterans to request letter. Baxter said he received letters from former students and friends. “It was so unexpected,” he said. “It was very special.”

An Honor Flight is conducted by non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many United States Military veterans as possible to see the memorials of the respective war(s) they fought in Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans. The veterans on the honor flights are escorted by volunteer guardians, who help them on the flight and around D.C.