GALION — If you’re familiar with Roger Haas, you know he doesn’t mince words.
So, when he says a recent Honor Flight to Washington D.C. may have been the best day of his life, you can believe it.
Haas, 72, a bus driver for Colonel Crawford schools, served in the Army from Dec. 14 1965 to Dec. 13 1967 in Fort Benning, Georgia, where ironically, he was the personal driver for the base commander.
About 3 a.m. last Saturday, Haas headed to John Glenn International Airport in Columbus to catch his flight to Washington. About 24 hours later, he returned to his Crawford County home with his wife Dorothy, and lots of great memories.
“It was overwhelming, and humbling,” Haas said. “I cannot say enough good things about the way we were treated.”
The price tag for the flight, bus rides, meals, water, snacks, etc. was more than $75,000, which was covered by donations from across the United States and elsewhere.
Haas was convinced to go on the Honor Flight by a friend.
“Paul Wagner is a World War II veteran,” Now he’s at Mill Creed and he told if me I ever get the chance, that I’d better go. It would be something I will never forget.”
Haas’ group flew into Baltimore early Saturday morning, hopped on a bus and received a police escort to Washington, where they visited — among other things — the Navy Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietman and Korean war memorials and the World War II Memorial. His group also witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery and then visited the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Air Force Museum.
“We probably walked close to seven miles,” Haas said. “We had bottles of water anytime we needed it. Some of the escorts not only walked that seven miles, they pushed veterans in their wheelchairs that whole, way ,too. They fed us, gave us ice cream and other treats.
“They did everything they could do to make the trip enjoyable for us,”
The whole trip were emotional for Haas, some more than others.
“Chuck Collene was a friend from Colonel Crawford High School,” Haas said. “He graduated in 1955 and died in Vietnam. I found his name and did the name etching thing.”
As good as the trip to DC was, Haas said the reception his group received upon there arrival back at Port Columbus was even more emotional, because he had no idea it was going to be what it was.
“There were about 1,500 people waiting for us when we arrived,” Haas said.
One group of greeters — about 15 — were all dressed alike, in black t-shirts with the words “Our Hero Roger Haas” on the front of it.
Roger’s wife Dorothy organized the welcome-home greeting and the t-shirts. She also did one other thing that brought tears to her husband’s eyes.
“I got the t-shirts then I asked friends and family to write something up about what Roger means to them,” she said.
Roger Haas said he’ll cherish those letters for the rest of his life.
Bad weather over Columbus delayed the groups arrival and it was after midnight when they finally exited the plane. A trip to Waffle House preceded the trip back to Crawford County.
“I encourage anyone who has a chance to go to go,” he said. “It’s something you’ll never forget.”
Roger Haas tears up upon his arrival at the Port Columbus terminal early Sunday. Haas, 72, had just returned on his Honor Flight to DC and a group of about 1,500 people was awaiting their arrival.
This group of friends and family welcome Roger Haas back to Ohio after last weekend’s Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
On an Honor Flight recently to Washington D.C, Roger Hass made certain he found the name of friend Charles E. Collene, a 1955 Colonel Crawford who died during the Vietnam War on the Vietnam War Memorial.