May 18, 2016

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 the Middle East to D.C.

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 sixth “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 a tour of the Capitol and visits to 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.”

“Many of the veterans on today’s trip were visiting our nation’s capital for the first time. I was honored to welcome them to Washington and thank them for their service,” said Senator Capito. “Without the sacrifices of these veterans, we would not enjoy the many freedoms we cherish today. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I want to thank all veterans, from the bottom of my heart, for their selfless service to our nation.”

Of the Honor Flight Veterans, two served in World War II, four served in the Korean War, one served in both the Korean and Vietnam War, 14 served in the Vietnam War and four served after 1964. They were accompanied by six JROTC Cadets volunteering as guardians from southern West Virginia high schools, the President of the Denver Foundation and Little Buddy Radio, Dreama Denver, and the “Always Free Honor Flight” organizer Pam Coulbourne, Steve Coleman, Board Member & Official Photographer of the Always Free Honor Flight and the Denver Foundation, 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. 

Click here to view photos of the "Always Free Honor Flight." 

Senator Manchin wrote the following statement in the Congressional Record:


Mr. President, I rise with immense pride in recognizing the 25 heroic Veterans who have traveled to Washington from West Virginia on this year’s ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ this week. This truly moving event serves as a unique opportunity for us to honor and share our deepest gratitude for these individuals who have sacrificed so much in the service of our great nation.

With one of our country’s highest per capita rates of military services members and Veterans, West Virginia is undoubtedly one of our nation’s most patriotic states. Throughout the history of the Mountain State, our citizens have demonstrated the bravery and selflessness time and again in making tremendous sacrifices to keep our homeland safe and free. 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. As these Veterans tour the monuments that have been constructed in their honor, I offer my sincerest thanks to them on behalf of our nation for their service.

The Veterans joining us in Washington hail from across West Virginia, from Scott Depot and Princeton to Rainelle and Lewisburg. They have served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, during the Cold War prior to the Berlin Wall’s collapse, and the wars in the Middle East. They have participated in decisive overseas battles and won myriad accolades for their accomplishments in uniform.

First and foremost, I’d like to remember Petty Officer 3rd Class Earnest McKenzie, an Athens West Virginia native, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1955 and served on the USS Brownson in the Vietnam War. He was supposed to attend this week’s ‘Honor Flight’ to visit the memorials made in his honor, but he sadly passed away on Friday at the age of 75. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this sad time and I sincerely thank him for his service and sacrifice.

I would especially like to recognize our World War II Veterans who will be on this ‘Honor Flight.’ 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 at the battle of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

These men truly represent the sacrifices made by our nation’s Greatest Generation and embody American patriotism and valor. They fearlessly fought in such a pivotal war in an era that threatened our existence as a nation. We are losing so many of our World War II Veterans every day and the time to show our utmost gratitude to them is here and now.

Mr. President, I would also like to highlight the tremendous achievements of two Vietnam War Veterans who will be on this ‘Honor Flight’. Mabscott West Virginia native, former SP4 (Specialist) Raymond C. Palmer joined in Army in 1967 and fought in the 1968 Tet Offensive when the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces launched a series of attacks on scores of towns and cities through South Vietnam. Another Vietnam Veteran participating in this week’s ‘Honor Flight’ is Staff Sergeant Michael A. Hudnall of Rainelle, West Virginia who joined in the Army in 1969. Staff Sergeant Hudnall served in the 1st Air Cavalry stationed in Bien Hoa and earned two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and two Air Medals. Their dedication to our nation knows no bounds, and I thank them for their service.

I would also like to recognize Army Sergeant First Class Paul W. Dorsey of Bluefield, West Virginia, who joined the Army in 1978. Sergeant First Class Dorsey served the United States for 10 years in Germany, more than three of which he was stationed in Berlin prior to the wall’s collapse. Following his return home, Sergeant First Class Dorsey went on to serve an additional decade stateside and continues to give back to his community. He is a JROTC instructor at Montcalm High School in Mercer City and serves as Vice President of the ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ Network. Thank you, Sergeant First Class Dorsey, for your lifelong commitment to the United States military and our Veterans.

The Veterans participating in this week’s ‘Honor Flight’ range in age from 54 to 94 and have fought for our freedom in many historic events. 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.

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 JROTC cadets from Princeton, Montcalm, Bluefield, and Pikeview High Schools as well as the military spouses serving as the guardians on this year’s ‘Honor Flight.’ The care and love you 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. My gratitude especially goes out to 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. Dreama and Pam launched the ‘Always Free Honor Flight’ in 2012 and have been making the dreams of West Virginia’s Veterans a reality every year since. They, along with Sergeant First Class Dorsey and Board Member and Official Photographer Steve Coleman, 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.

Mr. President, our nation would not enjoy the freedom and liberty we do today without the commitment and sacrifice of the Veterans who have served throughout our history. Their bravery and sacrifice know no bounds, and for this we are forever grateful. With this week’s ‘Always Free Honor Flight,’ we celebrate and give thanks for these Veterans and all they have done for our country.

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