AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Bergstrom International Airport was a place of honor Saturday as 13 Texans were seen off to to Washington D.C. The group was made up of veterans who were at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack that got America to enter World War II.
Sunday, December 7 is the 73rd anniversary of that attack and the vets were chosen for the Austin Honor Flight to attend a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial at the U.S. Capitol.
“It’s really emotional. I talked to a few of them today,” said Allen Bergeron, chairman of the 21st Austin Honor Flight. “They really don’t understand why we are saying thanks so much to them. They are so humble, they are men and women of the greatest generation. They are all humble giants.”
Clarence Heidemann is part of a chapter of Pearl Harbor vets that once numbered more than 100. Six remain. Clarence reported for duty at Pearl Harbor December 1st, 1941. He remembers the attack that occurred six days later. “It was pretty chaotic after that, especially down at the harbor,” he explained. “I didn’t get down into the Navy Yard until the next day, there was still a lot of confusion.”
Austin Honor Flights include veterans from 14 Central Texas counties. Flights are sponsored by Southwest Airlines and expenses are covered by donations at no cost to the vets. 90,000 World War II vets are still with us across Texas.
The Battleship USS Tennessee was damaged, not sunk, at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Jack V. Jones was pulling KP duty when they hit. He ran to his battle station. “I went up there and got to see the devastation,” he said. “It was pitiful. My eyes just couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was beyond comprehension.”
Sunday, Jack will have a special role to play. “They’ve asked me to put a wreath at the Unknown Soldier. I’m only a guest. I just couldn’t believe such a thing would happen to a little old me.”
Humble…yes. Giants? Most definitely.