The 69 World War II veterans participating in the inaugural Central Valley Honor Flight attended the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday morning, shortly before they were to return home.
For many of the veterans, and the red-jacketed guardians who accompanied them, the visit at 9 a.m. Wednesday was the first time they had seen the clock-like ritual conducted hourly.
“It’s impressive what people can do what they want,” said Dale Brimhall, an 88-year-old Fresno resident. “They are a precision group of boys.”
Brimhall served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and, later, in the U.S. Air Force. He and the other Honor Flight participants pulled up in their buses about 10 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. About three dozen watched from wheelchairs; others stood.
“It was great to watch them,” said Jim Kitchen, a 90-year-old Fresno resident and Coast Guard veteran.
On Wednesday, the Honor Flight participants visited the World War II Memorial. Most everyone thought it hit the mark, though retired architect and Army veteran Francis Capone, an 87-year-old Porterville resident, allowed that the memorial should have conveyed more about the destructiveness of war.
“It was very attractive, respectful,” said Robert ‘Jack’ Tolladay, a Navy veteran and 86-year-old Fresno resident.
After the Changing of the Guard, the men boarded buses and headed for the airport, in preparation for a return to Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Thursday afternoon.