The Adorable Legs Contest on Sunday at the New Bloomfield Celebrate America event will benefit the Honor Flight program that provides free trips by Central Missouri World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C. to tour war memorial sites.
Because of their advanced age, the first Honor Flights were reserved for Central Missouri World War II veterans. Now the flights are also accepting Korean War and some Vietnam War veterans with health problems. The oldest veterans have priority for the flights but younger veterans who are ill are also being accepted for flights if they are able to endure the one-day round trip to Washington.
Don Ernst, a Callaway County resident who lives near Shamrock, and his friend Billy Connor went on Honor Flight No. 18 last year to Washington.
Ernst is now an Honor Flight volunteer. He received an email recently about the most recent Honor Flight No. 24.
Steve Paulsell, executive vice president of the Honor Flight organization, told Ernst and other Honor Flight volunteers in an email about an event that occurred on Honor Flight No. 24.
During the trip, Paulsell said a flight attendant told him there was a young man from South Korea on the flight who was moved by the fact that so many veterans on the plane had fought in the Korean War to save his country from the 1950 invasion of the Republic of Korea by communist troops from North Korea and Red China.
Paulsell said 57 of the 72 American veterans on the plane were veterans of the Korean War.
Paulsell said the flight attendant told him the young man had been to the Korean War Memorial in Washington on the same day that the American veterans toured the memorial.
The young man had told the flight attendant that his grandfather had fought alongside American soldiers in defending the Republic of Korea.
Paulsell said he went to the back of the plane to visit the young man.
"In fairly good broken English," Paulsell said, "the young man told me how much he appreciated what our veterans had done to help his grandfather and what they did to save his homeland."
Paulsell asked the young man if he would like to share his feelings with the veterans over the plane's public address system. The young man declined because he was not confident in his English.
Paulsell asked if he could do so on his behalf and the young man agreed.
"I asked him to come to the front of the plane with me. Reluctantly, he agreed. After I has shared the young man's sentiments over the plane's public address system," Paulsell said, "I asked again if he would like to speak. After a very heartfelt and emotional thank you from the young man, the plane erupted in applause."
Paulsell suggested the young man could shake a few hands as he returned to his seat.
"The young Korean man bowed respectively to each veteran on the plane and then shook hands with EVERY veteran on the plane," Paulsell said.
Paulsell said of all the trips to Washington, Flight No. 24 was his most memorable so far.
"Magical things always seem to happen on our Honor Flights," Paulsell said. "This is just one of those times. I can only imagine how much this meant to our veterans."