Thank you for your service is a common phrase heard by many Alaska veterans for their military service. Now some veterans and their families are saying thank you to a couple from Big Lake.

"I'm not trying to be a hero to anybody man, but that's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me and it wouldn't have happened if it wouldn't have been for Ron and Lynda," said Korean War veteran Jim Clark. 

Clark, who lives at the Pioneer Home in Palmer, is referring to a Last Frontier Honor Flight trip that takes veterans to tour war memorials and other monuments in Washington D.C. Veterans don't pay anything for the trip; donations to the nonprofit are used to pay all expenses.

Ron and Lynda Travis set up the program in Alaska in 2013. The organization is part of a national nonprofit Honor Flight network, which has flown more than 200,000 veterans since 2005. According to the national Honor Flight website, there are 131 hubs like Last Frontier Honor Flight in 45 states across the U.S.

After Tuesday's flight, the Travis' will end their active participation in Honor Flight and others will take over, continuing the mission of sending Alaska veterans to Washington D.C.

Clark said he's had nightmares for years about losing a friend in the Korean War. He was killed in an explosion while going from one fox hole to another for some cigarettes. Clark said he was going to make the cigarette run but his friend insisted he'd do it.

"That actually should have been me. But rather than me, he went," said Clark.

The nightmares include seeing his friend in his room and Clark said he has even ended up out of bed on the floor looking for a fox hole.

However, Clark said things changed for him in 2017 when he took a Last Frontier Honor Flight and visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. His daughter made the trip with him. 

"She just wheeled me right up to it and I just reached out and touched it," he said. "And God it just, I was overwhelmed."

Korea War veteran Jim Clark places his hand on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. during this Honor Flight trip. (Courtesy Donna Poole)

"To tell the guy how sorry I was, or whatever. And that's what I was looking for," said Clark.

He hasn't had any nightmares since.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing," he said. "Just a feeling come over me and there's no way to explain it."

For that, Clark says he's grateful to Ron and Lynda Travis for allowing him to make the trip and allow him to move beyond a memory that haunted him for years.

Ron Travis, a Vietnam veteran, says he and Lynda will remain on the Last Frontier Honor Flight board. Ron is also the commander of American Legion Post 35 in Wasilla and plans to continue serving in that role.

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