Park City Veteran takes Honor Flight
Carl Workman had never flown on a plane before World War II. And after the one flight he did take he said he was content to never fly again.
"I didn’t go straight home after the war ended," Workman said. "I was sent from Okinawa to Japan to occupy Shibata for four months. There was a tornado or something, and I thought the wings were going to get ripped right off the plane."
The storm was so severe that many of the ships offshore at Okinawa were pushed onto the island.
"That was my first flight and I never flew since," he said.
When Workman’s daughter, Jillene Sewell, found out about Honor Flight, she knew she had her work cut out for her. Honor Flight is a national organization dedicated to ensuring all American veterans get the chance to go to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor. Sewell brought the idea to Workman, 91, a year ago, but he was resistant.
"I wouldn’t go," he said. "I just did not want to fly."
Finally, though, after some time and reflection, he agreed.
"I just thought I had to try it and see how it went," he said. "I hate heights, too, by the way."
Sewell, who went on the trip as her father’s guardian, said he did very well on the flight.
"He took lots of pictures of the wings," she said.
The trip took place Oct. 29-31, and Workman said he is thankful for the opportunity to go because he never thought he would.
"It was always something I wanted to do but I never felt like I had the time," he said. "I worked until I was 81."
Workman and 50 other veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard went on the trip. They visited the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam and Korean memorials, the Washington and Lincoln memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a whirlwind of a trip and Workman said he enjoyed it immensely. A part of the trip that stood out, he said, was the other veterans themselves. The flight to and from Baltimore and the bus rides between stops gave them ample time to get to know each other.
"It was a nice group," Workman said. "We talked to each other. We shared our stories."
There was a wreath ceremony at the WWII Memorial, Sewell said, and Workman was chosen to represent the Army. He marched at the front of the procession with four other service representatives and a master of ceremonies who carried the wreath.
"They walked in past the Pacific section, which was where my dad served," she said. "It was an amazing experience for me, to see that and to see him salute up there, and I’m sure my dad felt it, too."
The trip also gave Workman a lot of time to reflect on his service. Drafted at 18, Workman trained in Alabama before being sent off to the Marshall Islands to join a division out of New York that had suffered heavy losses.
"I was drafted but I would have went anyway," he said. "It was the right thing to do. I cried a few times in Alabama, don’t get me wrong."
Workman spent two and a half months in Okinawa, living in foxholes with water up to his chest.
"We would move up, dig a hole, and wait," he said. "It rained most every day. Sometimes the Japanese would come over the line and try to kill us. Mostly, we waited."
When he finally did come home from Japan, his ship arrived in Seattle on Christmas Eve. He and his buddies were greeted Christmas Day by families asking if they would like to join them for Christmas dinner.
"We didn’t do it, though," Workman said. "Our language was too bad to go."
And truthfully, he said, all they wanted was to be together.
"We just wanted to be by ourselves, to be with our buddies," he said. "We went to a café and had some beers."
The U.S. occupation of Japan meant a delayed return. Four months after most other service members returned home, what Workman did not get was any fanfare.
"When I came home all I got was a letter from the mayor," he said.
And while Workman is not the type to demand a hero’s welcome, some acknowledgement of what he had done, of the sacrifices he and his friends had made, did not seem like too much to ask. And Sewell said for that reason, the flying part of Honor Flight that almost kept her father from going may have been the best part of all.
"When we arrived in Baltimore there were hundreds of people there to greet us," she said. "They had bagpipes playing. They cheered like no other. They kept clapping for each of those 51 veterans."
When they returned to Salt Lake City, the scene at the airport was the same. Hundreds of people, greeting their Utah veterans like heroes. Workman said it meant the world to him.
"It was nice to know people were thinking of me," he said.
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