By Theresa Garee
On June 21, 1970, there weren’t signs that read “Welcome, Home.” There weren’t strangers shaking his hand and saying, “Thank you for your service.”
However, on April 27, 2019 there was a color guard team displaying flags, there were people clapping and thanking veterans for their service, and there were friends and family showing pride for the men and women who had served in previous wars.
When Lt. Arthur Gainer, Jr. of Canal Winchester stepped off the plane with approximately 150 other military veterans at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport on April 27 he had just finished a trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight Columbus.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime.” Gainer said.
According to Gainer’s son, Arthur Gainer III, Lt. Gainer served in Vietnam from June 1969 to June 1970 with the Big Red 1, “The Fighting First” Infantry Division.
Gainer’s journey may have begun in the Vietnam War, but it returned full circle two years ago when Gainer’s grandson, Landon, attended an informational assembly at Canal Winchester Middle School. It was there he learned about Honor Flight Columbus and took home an application to share with his grandpa.
“We filled it out, but I told Landon they got a lot of people. They’ll probably never call,” Gainer remembered.
Two years later Gainer received the call.
“They asked me if I’m still interested. I said, ‘Yes,’” said Gainer.
It was a one-day trip shared with other Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans and three World War II veterans. Everything was planned out for them with visits to memorials and to watch the changing of the guards.
“They made us feel welcome from the moment we took off, to the landing,” Gainer said.
Gainer currently serves as an auxiliary police officer for the Whitehall Police Department. He attributes his time in the Army to developing his skills for getting along with people and taking orders.
“Everybody’s got to take orders from somebody,” he said.
After a lifetime of service to his country and community, Gainer was excited to have the Honor Flight experience.
“I would like to thank Honor Flight Columbus,” he said. “They’re doing a good thing for veterans and I was happy to be a part of it. I would encourage all veterans to apply because it’s and experience of a lifetime.”
Gainer’s trip was number 95, according to Honor Flight Columbus’ website. There are six more trips planned for 2019.
Visit honorflightcolumbus.org for information.