Honor Flight Experience will simulate D.C. tour for veterans

They fought to keep America safe. Honor Flight Southern Nevada is doing something for them in return.

The nonprofit regularly takes World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials. But for veterans who are unable to make the trip due to health reasons, the Honor Flight Experience is set for Feb. 24 in Las Vegas.

The Experience will feature a luncheon, a video tour of the memorials and presentations to acknowledge the veterans’ service. The event is free for veterans, and they can sign up at honorflightsouthernnevada.org or by calling 702-749-5912.

The next Honor Flight Southern Nevada trip to Washington, D.C., is set for April 27-29. Each trip takes up to 30 veterans to Washington, D.C. The most recent trip was Oct. 27-29 and involved 29 veterans.

A free trip is nice, but it’s the message behind it that makes a difference to the veteran, said Belinda Morse, an Honor Flight board member. “It gives them closure. It give them the opportunity to, what I hear from them is, it gives them to opportunity to see that they’re still appreciated.”

Veterans have sent her thank-you cards, Morse said, telling her it was one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.

“One of the veterans suffered from post-tramatic stress disorder,” Morse said, “and he wrote and told us that this trip gave him so much closure that, after seeing the horrors of war, to see that it wasn’t for nothing, that (what he experienced) was worth it.”

Chicago-area native David Soifer was drafted into the Army he was 19.

“My country was at war, and I wanted to help,” he said.

After 16 weeks of training, which included 15-mile hikes (“My feet would bleed,” Soifer said. “They had an ambulance follow behind us.”), he was on a ship to Tokyo, then flown to Seoul, South Korea.

“I was stationed in a place called Wonju,” he said. “You pronounced it ‘one Jew.’ Funny, because I’m Jewish.”

One of his high-school friends, Marshall “Junior” Eisenberg, was stationed in Wonju, too. Soifer worked in administration and was on rotation for guard duty. He underwent regular target-practice sessions but never had the chance to shoot at the enemy.

That’s because most of the time the base was getting bombed by aircraft.

“Bombs were falling all around,” Soifer recalled. “There was nothing you could do except dive into a hole for protection and pray. … You got plenty scared, realizing that you might not make it home.”

It became common, he said, more bombs falling until American aircraft could chase them off or knock them out of the sky. Each bombing episode lasted about 15 minutes, Soifer said.

One night, a bomb hit the ground about 60 feet from where Soifer was taking cover, he said. It landed near the spot where Eisenberg was taking cover. When the bombing raid was over, Soifer hurried over and learned that his schoolmate, with whom he’d attended college months earlier, did not survive.

Soifer finished his commitment to the Army and was discharged as a corporal. He would go on to own a liquor store.

He was selected to travel to Washington with Honor Flights, but he declined.

“I don’t want to go. I can hardly walk,” the 89-year-old said. “I’d be a burden. Besides, I’ve seen Washington, D.C.”

Instead, he will take a virtual tour of the war memorials at the February event.

Contact Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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