FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Parades and memorial services aren't the only way to honor veterans as the region’s first African-American veterans embark on their first Honor Flights.
The Honor Flight program of Northeast Indiana gives a long overdue "thank you" to World War II veterans by flying them to Washington D.C. for a day to visit the WWII Memorial and other sites—all free of charge.
To recognize veterans, Honor Flight Northeast Indiana held a special showing of a documentary about an honor flight held in Wisconsin. The documentary couldn’t be showing at a better time, not only because it was Memorial Day, but because the next Honor Flight leaving Fort Wayne will happen Wednesday, May 29.
21 Alive’s Rachel Martin was lucky to catch up with a couple of the honorees who will go down in history for more than their service to our country.
At 90 and 91-years-old, Al Stiles and Charles Moses are the first African-American World War II veterans in the region to ever go on an Honor Flight. Stiles says he hasn't been to Washington D.C. since the 1930's. He went on his first flight earlier in May.
"I saw things that I never thought I'd ever see again, but I did,” said Stiles.
Moses' last trip to D.C. was when President John F. Kennedy was in office. He will go on his first flight May 29. "I'm looking forward to the whole thing. I'm ready!” Moses laughed. “If they say get in here, I'm going to go there. I'm going to run all over the place."
Best known in Fort Wayne as a tap dancer and founder of the "Talent Factory," Stiles was in the Special Services of the Army, dancing with the likes of Josephine Bakers and using his talent to raise military funding.
"We travelled all around the country to different states, and different air forces and bases, you know, and we put on shows and they have to buy bonds to get in and see the show,” he said.
Moses says he was one of the Navy's first Black Chief Signalmen, using Morse Code and flagging to community from navy boat to boat.
“Have you ever gone downtown to Western Union to send a message? You ever done that? And you hear da dah, da dah, da dah...well, that's what we had to do,” said Moses imitating a transmitter.
After traveling the world and having the experiences of their lives, once again Moses and Stiles will embark on another adventure.
"We're going to make it if we have to crawl on our knees and ankles. We're going to get there!” said Moses.
"I wish more people can enjoy the life that I had because I've enjoyed every minute of it,” said Stiles with a giant grin.
Both Moses and Stiles say they feel blessed and honored to be part of an Honor Flight, and hope their life experiences can serve as example to young African-American men. Both say if they can, they would like to go on another flight.
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