Family takes honor flight

Uncle and nephew fly to D.C. with other vets; both ‘amazed’ at honor flight reception

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rate Frank Camp Jr. from his nephew Rex Brimner.

Being close in age they have many of the same life experiences and Sept. 24 they shared another when they participated in an honor flight for veterans to Washington, D.C.

“It was a good trip. They can’t do enough for you,” said Camp.

Both men were amazed to see approximately 1,600 people waiting to give the vets a rousing welcome home at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield. Like so many veterans they simply came home after being discharged without an official community acknowledgement when they returned.

Camp served in the Army from 1954 to 1957.

“That was kind of the end of Korea, but I didn’t have to go to Korea,” said Camp. “I went to Alaska for my last 18 months.”

He enlisted and the Army trained him in body repair, acetylene welding and body painting and that was the work he did for the duration of his service.

Brimner enlisted in the Navy in 1957, the same year his uncle finished his military commitment.

“I served a little over four years,” said Brimner. “That was when they were having trouble with the Bay of Pigs, and they extended my time.”

The Bay of Pigs was one of the incidents connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis when President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the former U.S.S.R. were in a face-off over the Soviet Union placing medium range nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Brimner was a signalman on a destroyer based at Norfolk, Va.

“We would go out and cruise in the Caribbean for awhile, and then return to Norfolk for more training,” said Brimner.

After his discharge, Brimner returned to Edgar County and got a job at the cereal mill. He was later employed by International Harvester and General Telephone.

“In ’77, I quit the phone company and went into business for myself,” said Brimner. His excavation and trenching business continued until he retired in 2018.

Camp also came back to Edgar County after leaving Alaska and started farming in 1958.

They were aware of the honor flights taking veterans to Washington for visiting the various monuments but hadn’t thought about going until their sons investigated the idea and approached them about making the trip. Mitchell Camp served as the guardian for his father, and Kevin Brimner did the same for his father.

Guardians are younger people who accompany and assist the elderly veterans on the trip. The veterans fly free and guardians pay for their tickets

According to the Honor Flight website, the organization is dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure. The primary goal is to get World War II veterans to the official memorial for the Second World War but other important stops are the memorials for the Korean and Vietnam wars. The latter two memorials probably had the most impact on Camp and Brimner.

“I had a friend who served in Korea,” said Camp. “To see that memorial, you have to think about the hardship.”

“It’s just amazing to see that wall with all of the names on it,” Brimner said about the Vietnam Memorial.

Other stops included Arlington Cemetery for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Air Force Memorial, the Lincoln and Washington monuments and the Air and Space Museum. Their honor flight participants, which included a WWII veteran in his 90s, traveled through the city on four charter buses with a police escort that blocked streets for their passage.

It was a long 17-hour day from when they left Springfield until they returned. The flight home included a mail call segment with each veteran receiving a bag of cards and letters expressing well wishes from both strangers and people they knew.

Brimner’s mail call packet included notes from every fifth grade student at Crestwood School where one of his relatives is on staff.

Camp’s letters contained two special messages from his great-granddaughters aged six and 10, and while that was emotional, the thing that touched him the most was the reception at the Springfield airport.

“When you walked out there and saw all of those people greeting you, that was humbling,” said Camp.