May 22, 2019

Manchin, Capito Welcome West Virginia Veterans To Washington

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 thirty-one Veterans and their families from West Virginia to the nation’s capital for the tenth “Always Free Honor Flight.” Senator Manchin provided each Veteran with a Congressional Record Statement to recognize their trip to Washington, D.C., which included a visit to the Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“It is truly an honor to welcome these thirty-one Veterans and their families to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials that have been built to honor their service to this country. The sacrifices made by these Veterans have allowed this country to remain safe, free and the greatest country on earth,” said Senator Manchin. “West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states and these West Virginia Veterans embody the Mountain State’s history and contributions made to safeguard America’s liberty. I am so proud that through today’s Honor flight, these Veterans can be honored for their sacrifices and shown the gratitude they deserve. I’d also like to thank my good friends Dreama Denver, Pam Coulbourne and the whole Always Free Honor Flight Network for making this trip possible for our Veterans.”

“Greeting West Virginia veterans at the World War II Memorial is one of the highlights of my year. My dad fought in WWII, so I have a soft spot for the Greatest Generation. Honor Flights give veterans the unique opportunity to reflect on their service and find closure and community while visiting Washington. I’m so pleased to join my colleagues in welcoming our state’s heroes,” said Senator Capito.

Of the Honor Flight Veterans attending, one served in World War II, two served in both the Korean War, ten served in the Vietnam War, one served in Vietnam and Desert Storm, one served in the Cold War, one served in Desert Storm and the Gulf War, two served in the war in Afghanistan, and many others served between wars. They were accompanied by one JROTC Cadet, Theresa Riggs, volunteering as a guardian from Montcalm High School in Montcalm, West Virginia, 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 that 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 entered the following statement in the Congressional Record: 


M. President, today I am incredibly honored to rise and recognize a group of thirty-one heroic military Veterans who will travel from West Virginia this week to visit our nation’s capital as part of the tenth Always Free Honor Flight. On the occasion of their visit, in which they will see for the first time the monuments built in their honor, I want to express my utmost gratitude to these special men and women for their extraordinary bravery and patriotism, and for their noble sacrifice to help keep our country free. 

I have said this time and time again—West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in this great nation. 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. The thirty-one Veterans participating in this week’s Always Free Honor Flight truly embody the Mountain State’s history and contributions to the safeguard of our American freedoms. 

Our special West Virginians visiting this week represent warriors from twenty-three to ninety-three years old and have traveled from all parts of our great state – from Beckley to Bluefield, Princeton to Cottageville, and many places in between. In addition to our Mountain State Veterans, six Veterans from Virginia and one Veteran from Florida will be accompanying their fellow West Virginia Veterans on the day-long adventure. Of the patriots attending, one served in World War II, two served in both the Korean War, ten served in the Vietnam War, one in Vietnam and Desert Storm, one served in the Cold War, one served in Desert Storm and the Gulf War, two served in the war in Afghanistan, and many others served between wars. 

I would especially like to recognize our World War II Veteran who will be on this ‘Honor Flight.’ Ninety-three year old Allen K. Walker who now lives in Beckley but is originally from the Mississippi Delta. He joined the Navy in Rosedale, Mississippi in 1944. He served as a Seaman first class stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Allen is a member of 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, Vietnam, Cold, and Gulf Wars. They engaged in combat all over the world. They were Humvee mechanics, military police officers, and radio operators.

Two of our proud Veterans here today, served in the Korean War. One is eighty-six year old Corporal Paul Clifford Lathey from Cottageville, West Virginia. He joined the Army in 1953 in Ripley, West Virginia. During his time in Korea, he served in the 15th Infantry, 3rd Division Fox Company, where he treated wounded soldiers in MASH units. Our other Korean War Veteran is ninety year old Sergeant David Shirley Knapp, who was in the army from 1948-1954 and served as a combat engineer during the Korean War. 

Another Veteran is Charlie R. Lambert from Iaegar, West Virginia, who served in a variety of roles during the Vietnam War. After he joined the Navy in 1970, he served in a “Boots on the ground” role in Thailand, served on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima, and volunteered to be a member of the “Brown Water Navy” or the forces that patrol shallow inland waterways, seizing contraband and engaging with the enemy. Another brave West Virginian that served in Vietnam is Sergeant Robert Ortiz, from Premier, West Virginia, who served as an infantryman in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division Americal.

We also have two Veterans that served in two wars, both from Virginia. Sergeant Jackie Thornton of Narrows, Virginia, who served in Army during both the Vietnam and Desert Storm Wars, as the Chaplain’s assistant. As well as, Sergeant Steven R. Mitchell of Bluefield, Virginia, who served in the Army in both Operation Desert Shield/Storm and the Gulf War.

I would like to also specifically honor the youngest Veteran we have with us today. Sergeant Austin Patrick Coleman of Bluefield, West Virginia. He joined the Marines in Houston, Texas and served his country in Helmand Province Afghanistan as an infantryman, assisting the Afghanistan National Army. Another veteran of the war in Afghanistan here today is Michael “Doc” Atwell of Princeton, West Virginia. Doc served in the Navy at Camp Dwyer in the Helmand Province. He was attached to the 1st Tank Battalion RCT7 as a FMF corpsman.

Showing our appreciation to those who have served is something that we should do each and every day, but today is a special day to pay tribute and thank those who have volunteered to put their lives on the line for our freedoms. The memorials our Honor Flight participants will visit today serve as an important reminder to us all that our freedoms and liberties come at a steep cost. However, I know our veterans will find special meaning and potentially long-lost emotions when they tour such touching sites.

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 Theresa Riggs, the JROTC Cadet from Montcalm High School, as well as, the military spouses and other family members serving as the guardians on this year’s ‘Honor Flight.’ These guardians have selflessly given their time to travel alongside our Veterans all the way from Princeton, West Virginia to Washington, D.C. to share this very special journey with them. 

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. 

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