RUNNELS COUNTY - Three Runnels County veterans and one from San Angelo were among the 102-plus veterans who were on the sixth Permian Basin Honor Flight May 16-19 which is organized to take veterans to monuments in the Washington, D.C. area.

RUNNELS COUNTY - Three Runnels County veterans and one from San Angelo were among the 102-plus veterans who were on the sixth Permian Basin Honor Flight May 16-19 which is organized to take veterans to monuments in the Washington, D.C. area.

Those who boarded the plane from this area included Ramon Mota, an Air Force veteran of Ballinger, his brother Elias, of San Angelo a decorated Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army, James Washburn, a retired Army sergeant who served in Vietnam and Bob Rostine of the U.S. Marine Corps. who served in Vietnam., both of Ballinger.

Every leg of the trip is meticulously planned, from the time they arrive, to when they board buses to see all of the monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, Korean Memorial, the Navy Memorial, the Disabled American Veterans for Life Memorial, the Marine Corps Museum, Vietnam Memorial and the Veterans National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

The veterans on this flight included those from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and those from peace time. In all, there were 143 persons on the flight, which included caregivers, medical personnel and Honor Flight officials and members of the media.

But at every stop, the veterans are greeted by throngs of crowds of well wishers, something some of them, particularly the Vietnam veterans, were not used to.

“There were hundreds of people at every stop - it was very heartening,” said Washburn, who served as a forward observer from 1968-69 in the jungles of Vietnam. “When we returned home people hated us - this was very different they were hugging us and they shook your hand - it was very heartwarming.”

Washburn said that one of the highlights of the trip for him was the Marine Museum - which took him back to Vietnam.

“I wouldn’t mind going back to see that again,” said Washburn, 74, a retired lawman and grocery store manager. “Every soldier ought to get to go see that.”

For Bob Rostine, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, the DAV Wall was very special as well as the whole trip, even though it rained on the group the entire time.

‘The DAV Wall was very inspirational and I enjoyed stories from Korean and WWII vets, and children asking about the Vietnam War,” said Rostine who served in Vietnam from 1969-70. “I’m glad I went to Vietnam and escaped death and I thank the Lord for it.”

Like the other veterans, Rostine said the changing of the guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was also compelling.

Ramon Mota, who served in the Air Force between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, invited his brother Elias, a Vietnam veteran, to accompany him on the flight.

Elias said that the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was the most moving for him.

“It was a special thing to witness - without looking at each other the soldiers perform the duty,” said Elias Mota, a Bronze Star recipient. “It is truly amazing.”

His brother Ramon, a Ballinger native, echoed his sentiments and said it was also moving to see the crowds of well wishers waiting for them at every stop.

“When we got to Baltimore there was a crowd there like you you wouldn’t believe,” Ramon Mota said. “We thought we won the Superbowl - then they had a reception for us when we got back. It was all good - every minute of it.”

Teresa Galloway is the coordinator for the Permian Basin Honor Flight, which is based in Midland and was started by John West, a former resident of Midland who still oversees the fundraising for the flights, each of which costs about $270,000.

Galloway said fundraising is underway and another flight is planned for next May. This trip, it cost about $1,700 per veteran. But she said with rising fuel costs the price may go up next year. There is no charge to veterans for the trip – everything is paid for including the flight, meals and accommodations.

For more information on the Permian Basin Honor Flight, contact Sandra at the Runnels County Veterans Service Office or go to http://permianhonorflight.org/ or send donations to Permian Basin Honor Flight, P.O. Box 52890, Midland, 79710 or email Teresa Galloway at teresagalloway828@gmail.com.