Dawes County will send off its 12th Honor Flight at the end of the month, and the trip has several father-son, mother-son connections.
Two of the 11 veterans who will take the Honor Flight Oct. 31 not only followed their parents into the service, but will make the trip to Washington, D.C., years after their parents did the same.
Ken Marlatt’s father, also named Ken, was a member of the first Honor Flight. Marlatt will join Honor Flight 12. He joined the Air Force immediately after high school and spent four years at Travis Air Force Base in California, where he worked as an aircraft crew chief on KC-135 tankers. His father, who was deployed at the time, did not see his son graduate from high school, but the pair were reunited at Travis as the Marlatt Senior returned from overseas.
“I was the first one in the family to see him when he got back. He was in uniform. I was in uniform.”
After leaving Travis AFB, Marlatt went to Hill AFB as a member of the Air Force Reserves, serving as a technician in depot maintenance, working on F-4s and F-105s. Eventually, he became a crew chief and jet engine mechanic on F-16s, spending 20 years in the Reserves before he retired.
Ron Cashon’s mother, Marcella, was also a member on one of the early Honor Flights. Cashon served in the Army from 1962-1978 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.
Lavern Savage, an Air Force veteran, will travel to Washington, D.C., with his son, Shawn, also an Air Force veteran. The elder Savage served from 1971-1975, permanently based in Washington but carrying out temporary duty assignments to Alaska, Utah, the Marshall Islands, American Samoa and Germany. He was an aircraft mechanic and served as a crew chief on the C-141.
He said he’s looking forward to the trip, mainly because he gets to make it with his son.
“He’s earned it more than I have,” he said.
Shawn Savage was inspired to join the Air Force by his father’s time in the branch, as well as by the fact that two of his grandparents also served. He joined in 1990, retiring in 2014. He completed basic training as Operation Desert Shield was starting and was eventually stationed at Myrtle Beach, Ellsworth, Eielson AFB in Alaska, New Mexico and South Korea. He returned to Ellsworth for his final 10 years in the service.
He originally intended to serve four years but realized it could provide him with a future. Savage worked as a weapons loader and deployed to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar during his time in uniform.
David Chavala served in the Navy from 1968-1980, based mainly on the West Coast at duty stations in San Diego, Coronado and Hawaii. Aboard ship, he oversaw fuel and water and worked with the ship’s boiler propulsion system. He has six Vietnam Campaign medals and spent time off the Vietnam coast several times.
Gary Danford joined the Navy in 1962 and spent his first two years in California before he transferred to Turkey for the next three years. He also spent a year aboard the USS America, eventually transferring to the Naval Intelligence Unit in Norfolk, Va. He joined the Reserves there, a commitment he continued in Lincoln before entering the Army National Guard.
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He began his career as a seaman recruit and left as a warrant officer. While he has visited Washington, D.C. numerous times, the Honor Flight trip will be special, as he wants to share that with his wife, Ruth.
“She put up with more than I did, raising kids by herself while I was floating in a ship.”
Gilbert Davis spent 20 years, from 1955-1975, in the Air Force, serving in Greenland, Oklahoma City and Arizona before being sent to Vietnam for a year in 1966. After returning to the U.S., he was stationed in Colorado until 1970, when he transferred to Anchorage, Ala., where he retired. Davis worked as an aircraft mechanic on twin engine fighters.
“I worked on every fighter type of aircraft from T33s to F4s,” he said. “I enjoyed the life.”
Clark Gardener, who served in the Navy from 1967-1971. After boot camp in San Diego, Calif., he worked in security clearance of new recruits while awaiting word on his acceptance to Officer Candidate School. He was not selected for OCS so instead headed to Memphis, Tenn., for electronics training and training on simulators. Gardener was eventually stationed at the Miramar Naval Air Station as part of the Fleet Aviation Electronics Training Unit of the Pacific, maintaining the F-8 flight simulator and orienting new pilots to the F-8 aircraft. He also instructed them on emergency procedures.
Gary Meradith served in the Army from 1969-1970, spending his year in Vietnam in the de-militarized zone in a duster unit, a tank with only a half-enclosed turret. His unit pulled night guard at fire bases, did mine sweeps and convoy support.
Jess Cross spent 20 years, from 1971-1991, in the Air Force. His time was spent in the Azores, Taiwan and Guam, as well as stateside. He worked as a civil engineer in heating and air conditioning, a career he’s continued to pursue in civilian life.
“I can’t wait to go. It will be an awesome experience,” Cross said of the upcoming Honor Flight.
Floyd Serres joined the Army in 1959, completing basic training in Fort Leonardwood before spending time at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. He was then stationed briefly at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and eventually shipped out for 13 months in the de-militarized zone in Korea, patrolling as part of the infantry.
“They called us legs,” he said.
He last visited Washington, D.C., in 1959 and can’t wait to see how it has changed in the years since.
“It’s going to be a good experience.”
Also taking part in Honor Flight 12 will be Joseph Johnson, who was a First Lieutenant in the Army. He served from 1970-71, commissioned after graduation from the School of Mines. He attended Officer Candidate School and was then stationed at Fort Riley, Kans., before going overseas to Germany and Vietnam as a combat engineer.