Don Hawley has traveled all across the globe, including Philippines, New Guinea and Australia. However, his most recent trip to Washington, D.C. might be one of the most memorable excursions yet.
Hawley is a veteran who had the opportunity to participate in the Puget Sound Honor Flight.
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.
Hawley was a pilot in the Air Force and served in the South Pacific in the 1940s. He was in active duty from 1941 to 1948. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and the Bronze star.
Hawley, along with his son Jim, boarded a plane on April 23 and headed to the capital for a jam-packed, three-day trip. At 97, Hawley was the oldest veteran on that trip.
The agenda included trips to the Lincoln Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, FDR memorial, Navy memorial, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Marine Corps Memorial and Air Force Memorial.
Jim had also secretly arranged for Hawley to be honored at the Air Force Memorial. A Flag was hoisted in Hawley’s honor and he was presented with a certificate there.
Out of all the sites and memorials he was able to visit, it was the Arlington National Cemetery that left a deep impression on Hawley.
“You read about it in the papers, but then you see all the graves…” said Hawley.
The military cemetery spans nearly 624 acres and is the resting place for more than 400,000 veterans, active-duty service members and families. Hawley said that he was surprised to see miles and miles of headstones at Arlington.
“There were more casualties in the war than I realized,” he said.
And while this trip allowed Hawley to reflect about his time in the Air Force and “remember things I’ve forgotten,” it also helped the father-son duo to bond.
“It gave us a chance to be alone and talk,” said Jim. “It was really good for the both of us. It gave us a chance to be together.”
“That was a great three days. I thought it’d be good, but not that good!” Hawley said. “It’s nice to to see people still remember the war(s).”
After his time at the Air Force, he later joined West Coast Airlines (now Delta) as a pilot and has logged more than 35,000 hours of flight time — not a single of of which was in a Boeing aircraft, ironically.
Currently, Hawley and his wife Darlene reside at Chateau Retirement Communities. In January, they will celebrate their 75th anniversary.