Harbor Place residents John Yacko, Melvin Franz and Ailene Tronca couldn’t stop smiling Tuesday afternoon while recalling their whirlwind, three-day trip to Washington D.C. as part of the Puget Sound Honor Flight.
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. It organizes trips to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans — World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
Students at Peninsula High School raised more than $2,700 in November to send the Gig Harbor-based trio on the trip. Students from Peninsula attended a sendoff event for them on Saturday at 8 a.m. and then welcomed them home late Monday at SeaTac Airport.
“It was all just wonderful,” Tronca, 92, said of all the festivities. “It was quite an experience.”
Tronca served in the Navy during World War II, working in the Hydrographic Office in Washington D.C., drawing charts of the South Pacific.
“We were working 24 hours a day when the troops were advancing because we had to keep up,” she said. “I’ll never forget (serving the country). It was a great experience — quite a privilege.”
Franz, who turns 91 in July, grew up a “farm boy” in a small town in South Dakota. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during WWII, working in the engine room of a ship that delivered ammunition and supplies to troops on the front lines. He visited ports all over the world. Up until Saturday, he hadn’t flown on an airplane since the 1970s.
“The plane ride was a smooth as silk,” Franz said. “If I had to use one word to describe everything, it would be ‘awesome.’”
Yacko, 90, a Philadelphia native, served in the Navy and worked on a submarine. He lived in Tri-Cities after leaving the Navy, working at the Hanford Nuclear Site.
“(The trip) was unbelievable. It just kept getting better and better,” he said. “Every memorial was really unreal.”