WASHINGTON - As the water fell over the nose, rolled down the windows, and slid under the airplane’s wheels, the women onboard the Southwest flight rejoiced.
“This doesn’t happen for any ol’ flight,” said Allen Bergeron, Chairman of Honor Flight Austin.
This wasn’t any flight. Forty women on board were veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It was the first time for many to see Washington D.C.
“Proud that I served my country, proud I live in the United States,” said Alice Black, who served in the Air Force during Vietnam. “I love my country. To be able to visit is a once in a lifetime trip to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it hadn’t been for the Honor Flight.”
The women were honored as pioneers who paved the way for women in the military and in the workforce today.
“I was in telecommunications. I was a teletypist. I sent and received coded messages,” said Marilyn Dow, a Marine who served in World War II.
Dow recalled how joining the military came naturally.
“Our country had been attacked. Americans fly right to the occasion, you know. Just about everybody I knew was running to join the service. So, I was running,” said Dow.
Dow was joined on the flight by her son David.
“My mom wore military boots. It used to be a slur at school or something. It’s great,” said David with a smile.
Dow remembered how she met her husband who worked on the same base. After the military, she took in foster kids without pay to continue giving back.
“(My parents) told us that we live in a great country. Everybody has to participate so it stays a great country,” said David.
The country was much different for Burnardine Flanagan. She was part of the 6888th Central Postal Director Battalion (Women’s Army Corps).
“I was the first woman to join the Army from New London, Connecticut,” said Flanagan. “When I went overseas, the mail was stacked as high as that ceiling. They had gotten no mail from 1941 to 1943.”
The work she and the rest of her battalion did raised morale across all troops. They processed 80,000 pieces of mail a day.
“We got all of our mail out,” said Flanagan.
Her victory wasn’t celebrated by all. Flanagan met inequality in the military.
“I was from New London, Connecticut. That was integrated. I had no idea. I said ‘The United States Army is segregated?’ I couldn’t believe it, but it was. We had to go by the rules,” said Flanagan.
The “rules” she explained meant she ate at a “colored-only” time. She attended classes for “colored” only.
“When I went in and found out it was segregated, I was appalled. I said it can’t be. Not in the United States of America,” said Flanagan.
The women on the flight, the women touring the memorials, led the way to equality today. This year, all military roles became open to women.
Honor Flight Austin will have two more flights this year; October 22-23 and December 6-7.
The December flight is a special Pearl Harbor honor flight to D.C. The group is looking for Texas World War II veterans who are Pearl Harbor survivors. If you know anyone who would want to go on the flight, visit www.honorflightaustin.org or call 1-888-530-8880.
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