Penny Cassidy, shown above with her father Leo, accompanied him for the Honor Flight day-trip. (Photo provided)

Taking flight: Korean War veteran visits D.C. on Honor Flight

By: 
Elizabeth Abbott, writer

Allegan resident Leo Cassidy, a veteran of the Korean War, received the privilege of flying to Washington, D.C., Saturday through the Honor Flight Network. Cassidy’s trip was organized through Talons Out Honor Flight based in Three Rivers.

The Honor Flight Network exists to bring veterans to the capitol in order to give them the chance to see the veterans’ memorials there. Originally organized for World War II veterans, Honor Flight now serves Korea and Vietnam veterans and those who are terminally ill.

Cassidy served with the U.S. Army in 1953-1958. His grandson, Capt. Shawn Hatfield of the Air National Guard, has been on Honor Flights as a community guardian—those who assist the veterans on during the day-trips—and suggested this would be a great opportunity for his grandfather.

The Cassidy family applied early this year and landed a spot on the June 1 trip from Kalamazoo.

Leo Cassidy was “very, very excited” to have this opportunity at the age of 83.

Cassidy’s daughter, Penny Cassidy, accompanied him and said, “It’s a way of giving back to him for what he has done.”

She said that the family was excited to give him this opportunity.

While in Washington, D.C., Cassidy was able to see the Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of an Unknown Soldier, the National Mall Memorials, and many other memorials throughout the capitol. For him, viewing the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials in person for the first time had the most impact.

“It was an enjoyable, heart-warming experience and truly a great privilege to join him in this lasting memorable adventure,” Penny said.

Leo Cassidy said, “It was a great honor to participate in the Talons Out Honor Flight and the crew members were amazing!”

More than 80 veterans were chosen to go on this flight. A special welcome ceremony at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo greeted the veterans as they returned that night.

Veterans entered through an arch made by the ladders of two fire trucks. Inside, they were greeted by family and friends with applause, whistles, cheers, welcome signs and American flags. The local Boy Scouts and emergency staff were among those welcoming and escorting the returning veterans, and superheroes Superman, Captain America, Batman and Wonder Woman joined in the parade to honor the veterans.

For many, the parade was the welcome home they deserved but never received.

For friends and family who were able to support their family members through this Honor Flight, it is a way to thank those who have served the country.

For each veteran, Penny said, “This is an honor, to be chosen and to go.”

Contact Elizabeth Abbott at (269) 673-5534.

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