May 24, 2017

Manchin and Capito Welcome West Virginia Veterans to Washington

West Virginia’s “Always Free Honor Flight” brings 25 Veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and in the United States to D.C. 

Manchin presents Veterans with Congressional Record Statements to honor their service 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) proudly welcomed 25 Veterans from West Virginia to the nation’s capital for the eighth “Always Free Honor Flight.” Senator Manchin provided each Veteran with a Congressional Record Statement to recognize the Veterans’ trip to Washington, D.C., which included visiting Arlington Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial.

“It is an honor to welcome 25 courageous West Virginia Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials made in their honor,” Senator Manchin said. “We could not enjoy the freedom and liberty we do today without the commitment and sacrifice of the Veterans who have served and sacrificed throughout history. West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states and these West Virginia Veterans truly embody the Mountain State’s history and contributions to safeguard America’s freedom. This special honor flight is just one way for us to honor and share our deepest gratitude for their service as they tour the Capitol and the monuments and memorials built in their honor.”

“I was honored to welcome West Virginia veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington today,” Senator Capito said. “Without the sacrifices made by these brave men and women, we would not enjoy the many freedoms we cherish today. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I always treasure the opportunity to personally thank America’s heroes for their selfless service to our nation.” 

Of the Honor Flight Veterans attending, two served in World War II, one served in the Korean War, two served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, 18 served in the Vietnam War and two Veterans who served stateside. They were accompanied by 5 JROTC Cadets volunteering as guardians from southern West Virginia high schools, the President of the Denver Foundation and Little Buddy Radio, Dreama Denver, the “Always Free Honor Flight” organizer Pam Coulbourne, Vice President of “Always Free Honor Flight” and JROTC Instructor Sgt. Paul Dorsey, Board Member and Official Photographer of the Always Free Honor Flight and the Denver Foundation Steve Coleman, in addition to Veterans’ family members and medics.  

The Honor Flight Network is a nationwide effort that raises funds to ensure Veterans have the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. free of cost to see the monuments that were built in their honor. In West Virginia, the “Always Free Honor Flight Network” was established thanks to the Denver Foundation and Little Buddy Radio, located in Princeton, West Virginia. These non-profit organizations were founded by Bob Denver – who played Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island” – and his wife Dreama, a West Virginia native.

Senator Manchin wrote the following statement in the Congressional Record: 


Mr. President, today I am incredibly honored to rise and recognize a group of 25 heroic Veterans who have traveled from West Virginia to visit our nation’s capital as part of the eighth ‘Always Free Honor Flight.’ On behalf of our state and nation, it is a true privilege to recognize them for their courageous service and unparalleled sacrifice as they tour the memorials that have been built in their honor.

With one of our country’s highest per capita rates of military service members and Veterans, West Virginia is undoubtedly one of our nation’s most patriotic states. According to the Department of Defense, West Virginia had the highest casualty rate in the nation during the Vietnam War, and I am so proud that the Honor Flight will allow these West Virginia Veterans to pay homage to their brethren at the Vietnam Wall. Throughout our state’s history, West Virginians have demonstrated selflessness and courage time and again in making tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms and to keep our homeland safe. As these Veterans tour the monuments made in their honor, I offer my sincerest thanks to them on behalf of our nation for their service.

The Veterans joining us in Washington range in age from 62 to 94 and hail from the coalfields of West Virginia and Virginia. These patriots come from seven West Virginia coal mining counties and three Virginia counties. Of the Honor Flight Veterans attending, two served in World War II, one served in the Korean War, two served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, 18 served in the Vietnam War and two Veterans who served stateside. They have participated in decisive overseas battles and won a myriad of accolades for their accomplishments in uniform. 

I would especially like to recognize our World War II Veterans who will be on this ‘Honor Flight,’ for the second time. Ninety-four year old former Seaman William (Ray) Calvin Sexton from Tazewell, joined the Navy in Bramwell, West Virginia in 1943 and was a gunner stationed in Panama and the Galapagos Islands. We will also be joined by Machinist Mate 3rd Class Marion Grey Noel who joined the Navy in the 1940’s and bravely fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

These men represent our nation’s Greatest Generation and their sacrifices and valor embody American patriotism. They fought in such a pivotal war, in an era that threatened our existence as a nation. Unfortunately, as the years go by we are losing so many of our World War II Veterans and we must show them our utmost gratitude each and every day.  

As I mentioned, we will also be joined by Veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. These men and women served courageously in a variety of ways, working both at home and abroad. They engaged in combat all over the world. They were pilots, helicopter gunners, and radio operators. One of these Veterans is Master Sergeant Reese Williamson Moore who joined the Air Force in 1951 in Bluefield, West Virginia. He was first stationed in Iwo Jima as part of the Japan Occupation Forces in 1952. Then he moved to the Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phongin in the Kingdom of Thailand. He served during a pivotal time following World War II and went on to serve in the Vietnam War. 

We will also be joined by Iaeger, West Virginia native Sergeant Marion (Mario) E. Deskins, who joined the Air Force in 1968 in Beckley, West Virginia.  He served with the 15th Aerial Port Squadron at Danang, where he maintained records on unit personnel and transported documentation to the Headquarters of the 7th Air Force in Saigon via C-130 Hercules airplanes. Sergeant Deskins was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam.

Another Vietnam Veteran participating in this week’s ‘Honor Flight’ is Sergeant Marshal G. Mann from Princeton West Virginia. Sergeant Mann served in combat as an aircraft loadmaster, bravely preparing and air lifting urgently needed ammunition to combat troops fighting in the Republic of Vietnam. For his service and extraordinary achievement, Sergeant Mann received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

This week’s ‘Honor Flight’ and the continued support of our Veterans would not be possible without the dedication of so many volunteers and caregivers. I would like to thank the five JROTC Cadets from Montcalm, Bluefield, Pikeview and Princeton High Schools as well as the military spouses serving as the guardians on this year’s ‘Honor Flight.’ The care and love these Patriots provide for our Veterans is invaluable and deeply appreciated.

I also commend those in the ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ Network for their dedication to providing our Veterans with such a unique and meaningful experience. Without the diligence and passion of Dreama Denver, President of ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ Network and owner of Princeton, West Virginia’s Little Buddy Radio, as well as Pam Coulbourne, the coordinator of these flights, many of our Veterans would never have the opportunity to travel to Washington and pay homage to the men and women they fought beside. Dreama and Pam launched the ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ in 2012 and every year, they continue to make this dream a reality for many of our West Virginia Veterans.

I’d also like to recognize Sergeant First Class Paul Dorsey, Vice President of Always Free Honor Flight and Official Photographer Steve Coleman, who have done a tremendous job of ensuring that our Veterans receive the recognition they deserve. Dreama, Pam, and Steve have also dedicated themselves to the Denver Foundation, serving as incredible examples of how individuals can give back to their communities.

This week, as we celebrate these incredible Veterans and their answering our nation’s call of duty, we must remember that the men and women who have given so much to ensure America’s safety deserve the utmost care and support upon their return home. We must continue to fight for a Department of Veterans Affairs that provides our Veterans with the services they very much need and deserve.

Mr.  President, I am filled with pride every time I meet the patriots who have served our country, and I am so pleased to welcome West Virginia’s most courageous Veterans, who are all heroes, to Washington, D.C. I encourage all of my colleagues to join me in saluting them. They truly inspire us all as we are reminded of their selfless service. It is because of their bravery that all Americans enjoy the greatest liberties and freedoms in the world.

God bless our many service members and Veterans, the great state of West Virginia, and the United States of America.