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Three Monett vets on Honor Flight

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three World War II veterans from Monett will be headed to Washington D.C. on Tuesday as guests of Ozarks Honor Flight.

This will be the second occasion Monett veterans have had to go to the nation's capital and see the major memorials to veterans. All the veterans will be accompanied by an official guardian accompanying them to help guarantee a safe and pleasant experience. Participants will arrive at the Springfield airport at 5 a.m. to leave at 6:30 a.m. There will be a total of 75 veterans, 75 guardians, three doctors and four nurses. The group will fly directly to Washington, see the World War II, Korean and Vietnam memorials and Arlington National Cemetery. They will return to Springfield at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Veterans on the latest trip will be Evert Fritz, Gene Spivy and KC Caldwell.

Fritz is a Navy veteran and a member of the Seabees, the Navy's construction battalion. He served in Panama, Nicaragua and Taboga Island in Central America as well as at the Great Lakes Naval Station and at Norfolk, Virginia.

Fritz's last visit to Washington was when the cherry blossoms were in bloom. Autumn will offer a different setting.

"I'm looking forward to seeing it all," Fritz said, "especially the Lincoln Memorial, the Iwo Jima and Vietnam memorials. I'm going to try to look up Mrs. (Julie Gasser) Fritz's brother's name on the World War II Memorial. He died in England when his ship went down. I think it's going to be an interesting trip."

Gene Spivy served in the Pacific. He was in the Philippines for about a year-and-a-half and then went to Guam to train for the invasion of Japan. After Japan surrendered, Spivy remained for several more months on police and mopping up duties before returning to the States in January 1946.

Spivy visited Washington on vacation 20 years ago and is looking forward to returning.

"I want to be able to see the World War II Memorial and the changing of the guard at Arlington," Spivy said. "I want to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam and Korean memorials. I'm looking forward to going on the trip."

KC Caldwell served on the West Coast in the Navy. He went to ordnance school and was assigned as storekeeper in an ordnance magazine with five-inch illuminating projectiles that were fired and descended on parachutes. Most of Caldwell's service was on land but spent some time on a tank landing ship (LST). Caldwell said he was one of the youngest servicemen, seeing active duty from 1944 to 1946.

"The point is to see the World War II Memorial," Caldwell said. "I was in there last when George H. Bush was president. I've seen the Vietnam wall. I want to see the Korean Memorial and anything that's been added since then."

Also traveling with the group will be Tom VanDerhoef of Monett as a companion for another veteran. VanDerhoef previously accompanied his father, Floyd VanDerhoef, on a previous Honor Flight trip.

Ozarks Honor Flight is sponsored by KY3 Television, FlyOzarks.com, Coca-Cola-Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of the Ozarks and the Pitt Family Foundation.

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