(Posted Sept. 16, 2015)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
With his son living near Washington, D.C., Charles Crable has visited the nation’s capital many times, but he admits he still becomes a little emotional upon driving into the city.
“When you come into the area, you feel like you’re seeing the most powerful country in the world and that thought just closes in on you,” he said.
Crable said that by itself, Washington, D.C. is a sight to behold, but what makes it so special to him is the meaning behind it, its significance to the country, and the fact that he and so many of his friends and fellow veterans played a part in its protection.
It was February of 1943 and World War II was ongoing. Crable, a Mount Sterling resident at the time, was just eight months removed from graduation at Madison South High School when he made the decision to enlist in the United States Air Force.
“My family didn’t come from a military background but I still felt compelled to serve,” he said.
After basic training in Tampa, Fla., Crable was among the very few in his class of 300 who were selected for a special assignment: teach armaments for B-17, B-24 and B-29 aircrafts.
“Most of the time, we had no idea what we were working on,” he said, referring to the fact that it was a B-29 aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb. “None of us knew about it at the time.”
For nearly three years, he travelled around the country teaching armaments until the war ended in 1945. A year later, having served his time in the Air Force, earning the rank of corporal, he settled into civilian life but maintained an interest in and dedication to his fellow veterans by becoming a member in the American Legion. He is a masonic member of American Legion Post 417 in Mount Sterling.
During a discussion of veterans affairs, his interest in Honor Flight was piqued.
“I was talking to a couple of my World War II friends, and they kept going on and on about Honor Flight and how I had to do it,” he said.
They told him that it is a one-day, all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. They told him about the strangers who would cheer for them, come up to them and thank them for their service. They told him that he must do it.
Crable said he gave it a lot of thought but wondered how it would be different from the visits he’d made to the city to see his son and his family. He mulled it over for a few years, then finally decided it was time to apply for a trip with Honor Flight Columbus.
On Aug. 29, Crable, who now lives in Grove City with his wife, Myrtle, woke up around 4:30 a.m. to make it to the airport by 5:30. There, he was greeted by Lorie Kuyoth, his Honor Flight guardian for the entire trip, and treated to breakfast with 77 fellow veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Soon after boarding Southwest Airlines, they flew into Baltimore where they were greeted by several hundred cheering servicemen and women and several hundred strangers. They were given a police escort and taken to Washington D.C. where they spent seven hours exploring the memorials and monuments dedicated to their service.
“It was just thrilling,” Crable said. “You are pampered like you cannot believe. They feed you, they cheer you, they give you a pat on the back.
“Everywhere you go, there are people lined up, waiting to speak with you and shake your hand and thank you for your service.”
He said, while tearing up, that this trip was the thrill of a lifetime.
“I’ve had some good thrills in my life,” said the 92-year-old. “But nothing like this.”
When he came back to town later that night, having paid for nothing including an ice cream sundae Kuyoth purchased for him, he knew it was his new mission to get other veterans in the area interested in Honor Flight.
“Every veteran needs to experience this,” he said.
Crable said he has talked to veterans who are interested but said they are worried they would be unable to get around. He said Honor Flight provides wheelchairs and will make sure all of your medical needs are met. He said the Honor Flight experience is worth the effort.
“You can’t miss it,” he said. “If you do, you’ll be missing the thrill of a lifetime.”
Veterans of World War II and the Korean War interested in being a part of Honor Flight can find an application at www.honorflightcolumbus.org. Crable also can help fellow veterans navigate the application process. He can be reached at (614) 804-3224.