Widow of WWII veteran salutes Honor Flight organizers
Rose Gallear is proud of her husband's service in World War II and she's proud to see his name listed on the Mat-Su Veterans' Wall of Honor in Wasilla.
Before he died in 2016, Rose's husband Eldon Gallear said his ship was torpedoed and sank in 1944. He said he was left floating on a life raft where sharks were trying to bump him off.
Rose says that Eldon long questioned whether Americans were proud of him for his military service.
"He didn't believe people really appreciated him, the service, the Merchant Marine. And they were so put down, like Vietnam veterans were after they came back," said Rose.
But Rose says his attitude of not feeling appreciated changed with a 2014 Last Frontier Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. All trip costs are covered by donations.
Rose was Eldon's guardian on the trip. Both she, and Eldon before he died, recall all the applause and recognition vets received on the five-day honor flight, including a big welcome home celebration at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
"So many years have gone by and I just took it for granted my country forgot me. Now I know different," said Eldon at the 2014 homecoming.
"He changed his mind. He felt like this country was standing for him," said Rose.
Rose praises Last Frontier Honor Flight co-founders Ron and Lynda Travis from Big Lake for setting up the program.
"Him and Lynda and the whole team that was working with him, they brought this forward. And they let people know, hey these are our heroes. These are the guys that kept us safe," said Rose.
Ron and Lynda Travis said they had never heard of honor flight before 2012 when they made a retirement motorcycle ride to Washington state.
They were visiting Ron's mother in an assisted living facility. They say while there, a World War II veteran wanted to show them several pictures of an honor flight trip he took to Washington, D.C.
"He just wanted to show Ron all these pictures. And he was so excited about it. He said it was the best thing that ever happened to him," said Lynda.
"He just was so enthralled with the attention that they got," said Ron.
That experience inspired Ron and Lynda to set up an honor flight program in Alaska.
Ron is a Vietnam veteran and his dad was in World War II. The Travises say they were able to set up a nonprofit and fundraiser for the very first honor flight in 2013, which was exclusively World War II veterans.
Ron says Lynda was key in organizing and fundraising, which included raffles, a golf tournament and luau.
The Travises say they've been able to send about 250 vets on the trips since the first flight in 2013.
But now the Travises are taking a rest from the program they started. Others will now take over where they are leaving off, continuing the trips to Washington, D.C.
However, the Travises will remain on the Last Frontier Honor Flight board.
"Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you. From the wife of a veteran who so appreciated, so appreciated that trip," said Rose.
"It's all been good. And it's going to be hard to quit," said Lynda.
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