Jack Culley has a plethora of stories from World War II — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Many of his stories came back to himduring a recent trip to the nation’s capital. The trip was made possible by the Puget Sound Honor Flight Program.
Puget Sound Honor Flight flies veterans to Washington, D.C. for a tour of monuments built in their honor. The trip allows for veterans to reflect on their time in service and remember those they fought with.
World War II veterans and those with terminal illness are given top priority for the trip, but veterans who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars are also given the opportunity to fly to the nation’s capital. The Honor Flight Network estimates that the country loses approximately 1,000 World War II veterans per day. The trip is free for veterans and is made possible through individual donations and corporate support.
Culley, 95, served in the Army from 1942 to 1945 as an engineer, and traveled all over the world. He primarily spent time in India and China.
Culley’s passion has always been in chemical engineering. He attended in University of Arizona and University of Colorado. In Colorado, he joined the ROTC.
“(ROTC) made a mechanic out of me,” he said.
Around the time the U.S. was preparing to bomb Japan, Culley was transferred to the communication division of the Army to work on telephone communications.
During his time in D.C., Culley was able to attend various memorials, including the National World War II Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean Memorial.
“(The World War II) memorial really impressed me… It’s a very appropriate place to put it.”
The moment that meant most for him during the trip was at visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery.
“They had all these kids out. They were shaking hands and saying thank you. That impressed me more than the soldiers walking back and forth. The fact that they had all these kids out,” said a teary eyed Culley.
Culley was one of the 18 World War II veterans on the trip. The oldest veteran on the trip was 99 years old.
He traveled to DC with his son Jay.
“(The trip) was interesting. I heard a lot of great stories,” said Jay. “I could have written a book. There were some impressive people.”
For Culley, the trip gave him a chance to reflect about his time in the Army.
He said he remembers having to eat Chinese food each day when he was stationed in China, and how he craved American food.
“The one day we had good food was a day some generals were visiting, and they had American food for us,” Culley said.
“It’s funny because he loves Chinese food now,” said Jay. “There’s something bizarre about that.”
After retiring from the Army, he finished his chemical engineering. He moved to Merrill Gardens in Renton earlier this year.
The trip was made possible by fundraiser Merrill Gardens hosts for Puget Sound Honor Flight each year.