Foreman discusses Honor Flight and time in the Air Force


The veterans visited a number of memorials during their Honor Flight. (Photo by Lewis PhotoConcepts)

By Dennis Foreman

*Photo by Lewis PhotoConcepts. 

On April 27, I had the extreme privilege of participating with 38 other military veterans in an Honor Flight. Our local organization, Twin Tiers Honor Flight, is a non-profit, charitable organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. As part of the national Honor Flight Network, they transport veterans to Washington, DC, so they can visit and reflect at their memorials at no cost to the veteran. This organization of civilians and former military veterans organizes trips from Binghamton to Washington, DC, about three times per year. They arrange all transportation, meals and lodging. Every veteran is required to have a guardian, whose responsibility is to be with the veteran at all times to make sure the veteran is on the bus, in good condition and ready to go, before every departure, whether from the city, the hotel, a rest stop or a memorial. Guardians also push wheelchairs for their vet and help them in emotional times at the memorials. My lovely wife, Sandy, served as my guardian. All the vets received two red T-shirts (one long sleeve and one short sleeve) and a small, lightweight backpack (12x14); the guardians received blue ones and both got other gifts, as well.

We met at American Legion Post 1645 in Binghamton for breakfast, registration, some photos and instructions about the trip. At 7 am, we were on our way to DC in two Shafer buses. When we arrived in the DC area, the buses took us to Navy Memorial Plaza for photos, after which we rolled out to the Korean War, Lincoln and Vietnam memorials. Two hours later, we arrived at the USAF Memorial back in DC. We then checked in at the Sheraton Pentagon City hotel. We freshened up a bit and then headed for dinner in the hotel ballroom.

Sunday morning, there was a non-denominational service, followed by breakfast. At 7:45 am, we departed for Arlington National Cemetery for photos and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We, then, traveled to the World War II Memorial, where we had time to walk around and take pictures. One of our staff showed us the hidden place where the builders had put the famous “Kilroy was here” inscription from World War II days, with the Kilroy image included. This softened the solemnity of the occasion. After that, we went to the FDR Memorial and then had time for a box lunch and photos at the Iwo Jima Memorial. After lunch, we boarded the buses for our return to Binghamton. When we arrived at the Legion Hall, there were a lot of people waiting to welcome us home, including TV news reporters and cameras, and Elsie Doetsch, who had been on an all women’s Honor Flight.

I was eligible for the Honor Flight because I spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. I had been working at IBM in Endicott for just a year and the Vietnam War was still going on. IBM could not get me an occupational deferment, so I enlisted and went to basic training. Then my appointment to Officer’s Training School came through. After OTS, as a new second lieutenant, I was sent, with Sandy, to Biloxi, MS, for Communications Officer School, in a class with eight other electrical engineers. We went through the program in half the required time and received commendations as Outstanding Honor Graduates. The USAF Communications Service said we were to be the first communications engineers, but they didn’t know where we should be sent.

We were instructed to write letters to a commander to tell him what experience we had. I told them about my programming work at IBM, so they sent me to the Communications Computer Programming Center in Oklahoma City. I worked in an off-base office building, because our unit was responsible for maintaining the software for secure text messaging from the U.S. to Vietnam, using some of the most modern computer systems available at the time from IBM and Univac. While there, I led a research team that designed and built a new programming language to be used by the Air Force for future digital communications systems.