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OAKWOOD — Robert Young and his son, Ron, are self-professed "airplane bugs."

They go to the Oshgosh air show every year, and the elder Young keeps two planes at the Vermilion Regional Airport, including one that he built.

Thus, it's not surprising that the Air Force-related sites made the biggest impressions during their trip last month with the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Young, 85, served in the Air Force from March 1952-56, and was stationed in Korea, just as the war was ending. His missions included recovering downed aircraft.

When he left the service, he worked at Chanute Air Force Base for 32 years.

Young was among the 85 veterans on the Aug. 21 trip to Washington, along with 18 other Korean War vets, one World War II vet (Vern Ingalsbe of Danville), and 65 Vietnam War-era vets.

At the National Air & Space Museum, Young wanted to see Enola Gay and the space shuttle. The shuttle was very impressive, he said, noting that it was still dirty, just like it was when it came back.

At the Air Force Memorial, which is on a hill, the visitors got a good view of the city, and could see the Pentagon nearby, including the part where a plane had hit it during a terrorist attack 17 years ago.

Young is familiar with aircraft. He built a Thorp T-18, which he started in 1966 and finished in 1970; he flew it for 30 years. He doesn't fly the T-18 anymore, but he does have an Aeronca Champ, which he restored and flies occasionally.

Both of his sons know how to fly. David of Oakwood works for Midwest Aero at the Vermilion Regional Airport and restores P-51 Mustangs. Ron of Fishers, Ind., works for Rolls-Royce defense contractor in Indianapolis.

When he worked at Chanute as a civilian, the elder Young was an aircraft sheet metal mechanic. He retired in 1988, and started an aircraft business, Young's Air Frame.


Reflecting on his Honor Flight overall, Young said, "That was a good trip -- they had everything down to a T."

His son agreed that the Honor Flight's 51st trip was awesome.

This was Ron's first trip to Washington, D.C., and he was impressed with the sites. However, he mostly enjoyed spending time with his father and meeting the other veterans.

"The coolest part was seeing everyone honoring them," he said, adding that he tried to stay in the background so the veterans would get the glory. "It made me very proud to be an American."

Both Youngs were overcome by the reception they received upon returning to the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield. Even though the flight was delayed a couple of hours because of a thunderstorm, hundreds of people gathered to welcome the veterans home.

"I was really humbled at how many people were waiting for us in Springfield," Ron said. "It shows you people care. It was awesome."

His father was amazed at the variety of people of all ages who turned out to welcome them.

"That was very, very impressive," Young said. "I tried to shake all their hands. I appreciated it."

Also on the trip, Young was touched by a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where he saw Audie Murphy's grave and a monument to those who died on the Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and lowering of the flag were touching, as well. When a guard passed the veterans, he dragged one foot slightly in recognition.

Another impressive site was the Korean War Memorial, where the bronze statues "look like they're looking right at you," Young said.

Another favorite stop was the World War II memorial. In addition, the veterans visited the Vietnam War, Iwo Jima and the Lincoln Memorials.

Young has great respect for the combat soldiers, saying, "They had it tough ... what they went through and the cold winters."

Young had plenty of his own experiences in Korea, as detailed in a scrapbook full of stories and photos. He was stationed at K-14 Kimpo Air Base when a North Korean defector flew his MIG-15 onto the base in September 1953. That plane was dismantled, and is in the Air Force Museum in Dayton, he said.

At the end of the Honor Flight, Young and other Korean War veterans received a copy of the book "Forgotten No More." They also received many letters of thanks from family, friends and strangers during "mail call."

"That was nice," he said. "It makes you feel honored."


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