Arlington hospital gives veterans a salute before their trip to Washington

More than 60 years ago, Richard Sharpe enlisted in the Air Force, joining U.S. forces in pushing back a Chinese communist offensive on the Korean peninsula.

After the Korean War, Sharpe stayed in the Air Force and eventually retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years.

Now 80, the longtime Arlington resident will fly to Washington, D.C., this week to visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial and other landmarks.

“It will be interesting, enjoyable and memorable,” said Sharpe, one of several Dallas-Fort Worth military veterans taking the all-expenses-paid trip through the Honor Flight DFW program.

Last week, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital hosted a special sendoff for Sharpe and eight other Korean War veterans who are scheduled to leave Friday.

“We’re here today to thank you, our Korean War veterans, who put your finger in the leaking dam of spreading communism after World War II. You are the first in the free world to confront communism head on and to help preserve world order and freedom in the world,” said Dr. Bohn Allen, a retired general surgeon and Army veteran who now serves on the boards of both Texas Health Resources and Arlington Memorial.

“It is now our turn to thank you and send you on your journey to Washington, D.C. to see the monument dedicated to you and your sacrifices. It is we who owe each of you a debt of gratitude for your service to the country.”

During the event, Arlington Memorial’s seventh annual veterans recognition ceremony, hospital administrators also thanked others who served in all wars in all branches of the military.

Mayor Robert Cluck, also a veteran, presented each man with an embroidered star cut from retired American flag. Cluck, who is Arlington Memorial’s vice president for medical affairs, was an Air Force medical officer at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.

“Every time they brought a fresh group of patients in, some of them severely burned, some of them severely injured and probably not capable of living, I thank God I was there because it helped me grow up. It helped me understand there was something more important than me,” Cluck said.

“I will always be thankful for those lessons, and I will always be thankful for you for what you’ve done.”

David Miller, 86, served in the Coast Guard as a petty officer second class during World War II and then as an Air Force staff sergeant during the Korean War.

He visited Washington with World War II veterans as part of the Honor Flight DFW program in 2012 and said he’s glad that veterans of the Korean War, known by some as the “Forgotten War,” are now getting that same opportunity.

“To me, anybody who has been a veteran — it doesn’t make any difference whether you went to war, fought in a war or never left the country — by their swearing in to a branch of service, they have told the American people, ‘I am writing a check for your life with my life.’ ”

Three Arlington Memorial physicians and one nurse are voluntarily traveling with the veterans to provide care if needed. Dr. David Plump, a pulmonologist, said one of the reasons he volunteered is because his father was a World War II veteran.

“It’s great to interact with these guys. They are such heroes,” Plump said. “Their stories are incredible.”

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