What was initially planned as a two-week vacation back in his old home state, turned into a trip of a life-time for a former Gorin resident who celebrated the most patriotic Fourth of July of his soon-to-be 66 years.
Adrian Rogers celebrated an early Independence Day in Washington D.C. courtesy of the Central Missouri Honor Flight.
He traveled with more than 60 fellow servicemen from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“I was planning a two-week stay in Missouri, when my sister, Miriam told me the Honor Flight would coincide with my visit,” Rogers stated. “She contacted the director, told him that I was neither a WWII, or Korean War, or Vietnam War veteran, but a terminally ill Vietnam era vet, suffering from ALS.”
On one of the group’s biggest trips of the year, there just happened to be one seat left for Rogers.
“I was the final one selected to fill the flight,” he confessed.
Honor Flight #19 left Columbia at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3. After a day-long trip to Washington, DC, to visit the memorials dedicated to their service, the Honor Flight rolled into the parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott motel in Columbia at 12:50 AM on Wednesday, July 4th.
“We had an awesome, but tiring 24 hours together,” said Rogers. “We toured many monuments, the White House, Pentagon and my favorite, the Iwo Jima Memorial.”
The veterans were treated to a special mail call, which included letters of support and encouragement.
“They meant so much to me,” said Rogers.
The written sentiments were backed up by rumbles of motors and cheers from hundreds and hundreds of supporters that came in out in the wee hours on the 4th to welcome home the veterans.
“Arriving back in Columbia, we were escorted by 935 motorcycles,” Rodgers proclaimed. “That’s right, 935.”
The caravan was escorted down I-70 by Missouri state highway patrolmen as the interstate was lined by thousands of cheering spectators and motorists flashing their lights and honking horns in support.
“It was the high point of my life,” Rogers said. “I thank all of you for being a part of it. Thank you so much. The Honor Flight program gives all veterans-one more TOUR with HONOR.
Adrian, who celebrated his 66th birthday on July 6th, got an early present, when close friend Nancy Platz, and her husband Larry, made the trip to Columbia to help welcome the group home.
“It was a wonderful adventure for Larry and myself – beyond wonderful,” said Nancy. “I had never been involved in an honor flight but now I wish to certainly get more involved. It was so emotional so many times.”
Central Missouri Honor Flight, an all-volunteer organization that began in 2009, has safely flown 1,021 mid-Missouri veterans to see their war memorials in our nation’s capital, including several Scotland County veterans.
Veterans Return to Columbia after Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
reprinted with permission from the July 4, 2012 edition of the Missourian
BY Xinrui Zhu
COLUMBIA — Adrian Rogers was the last person approved to take part in the Central Missouri Honor Flight that returned to Columbia on the Fourth of July.
Rogers lives in Florida, but he flew to Columbia as soon as he found out he was able to join the 19th Honor Flight. His mother and sister lived in Columbia, and his sister got him hooked up to go on this flight.
Although Rogers, a Vietnam era veteran, has serious health issues, he has wanted to participate in the Honor Flight ever since his sister told him about the program.
“It was an opportunity that I could not pass up,” Rogers said.
More than 900 people waited outside the Courtyard by Marriott hotel early Wednesday morning for the homecoming ceremony for Rogers and 63 other veterans as they returned from their Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
The group of veterans arrived at the hotel shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday. They had spent Tuesday touring war memorials in Washington.
More than 950 motorcycles led the bus carrying the veterans back to the hotel. As each member of the Honor Flight stepped off the bus, an announcer read his name, and the audience applauded and cheered.
Although it was well past midnight, children waved flags with their families, and older people stood with their walkers, holding banners and greeting boards to express their appreciation for the veterans.
“We drove over two hours to get here,” said Nancy Platz, a friend of Rogers. “He does not know I am here. I cannot wait to surprise him and tell him we came here to be with him.”
Platz is from a military family. Her husband is a Vietnam War veteran, and her father and father-in-law were World War II veterans. Her son has just returned from serving in Afghanistan.
But seeing the return of the Honor Flight was a first for Platz.
“This is new for me, and it means a lot to me and my family,” Platz said.
When Platz arrived at the hotel at 10 p.m., there were already people setting up for the celebration. She gave out red, white and blue lollipops to people who were waiting to honor their heroes. She had also made a sign that read “Our hero — Adrian Rogers, we love you!”
At 1:50 a.m., the veterans arrived. Rogers, who is a wheelchair user, was escorted by his mother, Carol Rogers, off the bus. He saluted the crowd outside the bus, and a smile lit up his face when people cheered for him.
Still smiling, Rogers was approached by Platz, who surprised him with a hug.
“We thank Columbia for opening up their arms and doing this,” Platz said. “This is the greatest thing I have ever taken part in.”
Ralph Dobbs, who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, stood in front of the hotel to greet the returning veterans. He wore his original World War II uniform and saluted each veteran as he stepped off the bus. He has been the official greeter for the Honor Flight since the program’s first flight in 2009.
“It is a celebration for freedom of America, and it is a special recognition of their service to the defense of our country,” Dobbs said.
The Central Missouri Honor Flight is an all-volunteer organization, and since it began the program has flown 1,021 veterans to see the war memorials in Washington.
“It is just overwhelming,” said John Rhein, a World War II veteran who returned on Wednesday. “Today reminds me that two of my high school friends got killed in World War II. I came to the Honor Flight to pay honor to them.”
One of the volunteers, Katie Roberson, cried when she saw family members hug the veterans exiting the bus.
Roberson has volunteered to help set up the homecoming ceremony since 2010. She started volunteering after successfully encouraging her husband and father to go to the Honor Flight.
“It is my life to support them,” Roberson said. “My whole family is in the military.”
Roberson’s husband, Jim Roberson, was a pilot for the Missouri National Guard for 20 years. Her eldest son was in the Navy for six years, and her middle son is currently in the Missouri National Guard.
“I want to teach the young ones that they need to put their hands over their heart when they see the veterans,” Roberson said. “We want everybody in America to be proud of what they did.”