‘Heroes Flight’ takes local veteran to Washington, DC
Since 2010, the Brookshire Grocery Co. has escorted groups of World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial and other points of interest through the “WWII and Korean Veterans Heroes Flight”.
On Nov. 3, Titus County Korean War Veteran Howard Petty had the honor of taking the Brookshire’s-sponsored trip.
“It was a teary flight,” said Petty. “Every memorial was so touching and amazing. I had seen pictures, but I had never seen the memorials.”
Crowds of patriotic citizens who lined up at the airport to show their appreciation for veterans especially impressed Petty.
“The airport was filled with people applauding and everything truly was so emotionally touching,” he said. “When we returned to Love Field it was 12:30 in the morning and people came there at that time of the night to greet us when we got back. The people cheering — that’s what makes it so hard when people won’t stand up for the National Anthem.
“There are still people who appreciate freedom. Freedom is not free. There’s a cost and some pay the ultimate cost.”
Petty was especially surprised to receive “mail call” before the flight back home.
“Back then I was gone two years before returning to the U.S. I got a 30-day leave and then returned to the Korean Armistice,” he said. “We never knew what was going on back home until we got mail call. So what they did, before we went on the trip to see the memorials, they contacted our friends, people from church, government officials, schools, students from school and all kinds of people to send us letters. We had stacks and stacks of letters at mail call. That was the most impressive thing.”
Petty joined the Navy at 16 years old, before he was of legal age to enlist, with his brother, Henry “Bill” Petty.
“I joined the Navy in April of 1950. I was 16 years old, but growing up in the Depression, 12-year-old boys were men so it’s not like we weren’t ready. I went in because it was an opening for a new way of life. I joined with my older brother and we said we were twins. We stayed together all but six months of the time. The Korean War started while we were in boot camp. I spent my 17th and 18th birthdays in Korea.”
Petty eventually returned to Titus County and took a job at Lone Star until the strike in 1957.
“We all tried to come home and not think about it,” he said. “Some never did. After we got home and during Vietnam, there were people all around us who were losing their sons or their brothers. Every day people were wondering if they were going to get that call.”
After the strike at Lone Star, Petty was a police officer for the City of Mount Pleasant from 1958 to 1967. Petty also worked as a professional photographer and editor for Bob Palmer at The Mount Pleasant Tribune before becoming pastor of the Logo Christian Center in Mount Pleasant. “Living through the Depression — that’s where I learned to trust in God. But I never once felt sorry for myself. None of us did,” he said.
According to Petty, Mount Pleasant is a patriotic community. “Mount Pleasant has a lot of people who will thank you for your service, and that’s rewarding,” he said. “At P.E. Wallace the whole school participates in Veterans Day. Every time I see a veteran I thank them for their service. I shake their hand and say ‘thank you.’ Sometimes that’s the first time anybody thanked them for what they did.”
In January, Petty will attend a reunion in Dallas with fellow veterans who shared the Heroes Flight.