In the last of May, the 32nd “Utah Honor Flight” for veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam left from the Salt Lake International Airport. Their destination was Washington D.C. to visit all the war memorials. Glenn L. Barnson was one of 50 veterans to be honored on this trip. They each had an escort plus a medical staff which included 15 nurses in training from BYU. As unusual as it might be, one of the nurses was Alexis Larsen, a great-granddaughter of Nada Jean Thomas of Bloomington. When Alexis learned that Glenn was from Montpelier, she took special care of him throughout the trip.
Glenn had an exclusive interview by a reporter from Fox Channel 13 TV before leaving the National Guard Readiness Center adjacent to the SLC International Airport.
Each veteran was given an “Honor Flight” shirt and hat to be worn throughout the trip. Glenn was notified he was to serve his country in 1950 as he returned home from his honeymoon. Now, 70 years later, Glenn expressed that his “Honor Flight” would bring closure and recognition for the service he gave to our country.
The Korean war began June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans assisted by the Chinese stormed over the 38th parallel and attacked South Korea. When Glenn entered the service, he was assigned to the 40th infantry division at Camp Cook California for basic training, after which his company shipped to Sendai Japan to bring the division to full strength.
By troop ships, they followed the 3rd Marine Division into Inchon South Korea. They were surprised to see the entire town destroyed by bombing and hand-to-hand combat. All that was left standing was the steeple of the Catholic Church! It was a shock for these young men to witness such devastation. When Glenn landed in Inchon South Korea, he was transferred to the 11th Ranger Co., paratrooper of the 40th infantry division. At this time he, received the battlefield promotion of “Master Sergeant.”
The United Nations condemned the action of this war, so 16 nations committed troops to assist the South Koreans as the north attacked! The United States had 88% of the troops and supplies that participated in this warfare, yet it was known as the “forgotten war!“
The “honor flight” commenced with the first stop in Baltimore. The veterans were bussed to the Westin Hotel in Washington, DC, for a welcoming dinner.
In the morning at 6 a.m., they visited The National Archives Museum where the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and many more records are displayed. Their next stop was the World War II monument where the wall lists the names of all the casualties. Then they were onto the “Navy Drill Team” exhibition, (a presentation of outstanding rifle drills.)
The Korean War Memorial, as described by Glenn, was a truly fascinating and inspirational experience. He said, “The emotional feeling that went through my body as I stood before the statues brought back memories of the many experiences I had while in Korea. They were so lifelike. I felt like I was on patrol again.”
The next stop on tour was the Arlington Cemetery where the military casualties are buried if you desire. It was amazing to see over 1,000 white crosses and how precise they are placed.
Glenn expressed that one of the most emotional experiences they witnessed was the “changing of the guard” at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guard was in full uniform, fully armed, as he walked the path until another guard took his place to continue the march. It was a truly spiritual, humbling experience.
Ending the tour for the day was at the Marine Memorial, another awesome experience. That evening they changed their attire for the Honor Flight Banquet.
Early that morning, they bussed to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. In 1812, this is where the British Navy, with all their battleships, sailed up to the Patapsco River intending to destroy Baltimore and capture the White House. If this had happened, the English would’ve owned our country. But the soldiers at the fort were determined to withhold the bombardment until the English turned back. This saved our nation! Francis Scott Key was a prisoner on the flagship of the English, and he witnessed the battle. This was when he wrote the words for the Star Spangled Banner, which became our national anthem in 1931.
As the veterans toured all these sites, they were always greeted by large crowds of young and old people, even toddlers, waving flags cheering and yelling “thank you for your service.” They even received hugs! Glenn expressed how special it was each time they were there, “It truly was a humbling feeling to know we were not forgotten anymore!”
Glenn was awarded the Bronze Star for action at the Han River Crossing, Korean Service Medal with three Bronze Battle Stars, Army Occupation Medal-Japan, United Nations Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal, Korean Pres. Sharpshooter Rifle Man Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Korean Battle Ribbon, Far East Service Ribbon, and Honorable Discharge. Glenn also had “Top Secret” clearance.
They returned home from their Honor Flight on a Saturday, greeted by family and friends, feeling very grateful for such an outstanding and wonderful trip, and thankful for those who provided this opportunity.