Dawes County veteran Ron Cashon has experienced many adventures in his life, but had never experienced the thrill of being in Washington, D.C.
That all changed when he and his sister, Cherie Hanchett, were selected to participate in the 12th Honor Flight, which began on Oct. 31 and ended on Nov. 3.
"It was an experience I will never forget," Cashon said.
He and Hanchett were part of a group of 11 veterans, 11 guardians and two escorts who took the trip recently.
The journey began with a 9 a.m. Oct. 31 ceremony at the Chadron American Legion, and Cashon said the honors didn't end there.
"When we left the American Legion that morning, there were people lined up along the street and even on the highway between Chadron and Scottsbluff," Cashon said. "It was cold outside but seeing all of those people out with the American flags, that was really special."
The Honor Flight group had lunch at the Elk's Club in Scottsbluff and they drove on to Denver.
On Friday, Nov. 1, the group left Denver International Airport and flew to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Cashon said the group met up with the national Honor Flight organization and spent the day Saturday, Nov. 2 exploring all the monuments in Washington, D.C.
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"There was so much to see in just one day, but it was incredible," Cashon said.
Memorable parts of the trip included visits to the iconic U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial — with the impressive statue of the raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima; the WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall; and a visit to the U.S. Navy Museum.
But Cashon said the most meaningful part of the journey was witnessing the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"That was incredible and it was a very emotional. Those soldiers did a wonderful job. It was overwhelming," Cashon said.
Traveling to Washington, D.C. is something Cashon always wanted to do. He said he served in the Army from 1965-1976 and spent 16 years in the National Guard as well. After training in Missouri and Oklahoma, Cashon worked in artillery and communications. He recalls enjoying mountain warfare training in Alaska, where he spent part of his childhood.
"I've been all over the place, but never to our national capital," Cashon said. "I don't think I would have ever been able to do that without Honor Flight."
Cashon said besides seeing the sites and monuments, he enjoyed spending time with fellow veterans.
"We are a great group. While we were on this trip, another veteran Gary Danford ran into one of his shipmates," Cashon said. "It was great to be able to see Washington with all of these great people who served our country and served it well."
Cashon said he would have liked to spend more time in Washington, but it was a very quick trip. After just spending one day touring the sites, the Honor Group flew back to Denver on Sunday, Nov. 3 and then headed back to Chadron.
"It really was a great trip. It means so much to me to have these programs available so that people can say thank you for serving," Cashon said.
"This is a trip and an experience that I will never forget.