GREENFIELD — When Bruce Mitchell gazed at the 19 stainless steel statues at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., he felt like the larger-than-life soldiers were looking back at him.
Mitchell, 89, a Greenfield resident, visited the nation’s capital through Indy Honor Flights, a Plainfield-based nonprofit organization that flies veterans to the memorials in Washington, D.C., as a way to honor their sacrifices. The experience of visiting the memorials with other veterans and being treated so respectfully by the volunteer organization was tremendously moving, he said.
He flew with about 180 veterans and their guardians at no cost Sept. 9. Mitchell’s guardian just happened to be his granddaughter, Jillian Okray, and he considered her his guardian angel, he said.
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“The guardians are almost constantly with you to be sure you’re okay, and in my case, she was wheeling me around in a wheelchair,” he said. “When you’re there, you’re looking around and you think, ‘here are all these guys,’ you realize what a sacrifice they’ve made, and each one has a guardian.”
Mitchell has an interesting military background: he was initially drafted into World War II but rejected because of his eyesight. He later joined the Massachusetts National Guard’s 26th infantry division, and after the Korean conflict began, he joined the Air Force, where he served for a decade.
Then, he worked for McDonald Aircraft, servicing Navy aircraft carriers and Marine aircraft. He worked for every branch of the armed forces except for the Coast Guard, he said.
Mitchell commended the volunteers with the Indy Honor Flight organization for their dedication to veterans.
“I cannot thank everyone involved enough,” he said. “I would encourage everyone possible to support Indy Honor Flight in any way he or she can.”