BREWER, Maine — Edward Hendrickson was a naval dive bomber during World War II who has never seen the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., that honors him and his fellow brothers-in-arms who served and the more than 400,000 who died.
That will change Sunday when he takes off on an Honor Flight to visit the nation’s capital.
“I haven’t been down there for 35 years or better, and I probably wouldn’t go if it weren’t for this flight,” said the 89-year-old Brewer native.
Honor Flight New England, a nonprofit organization “created solely to honor America’s veterans for all of their sacrifices,” is providing Hendrickson and Machias resident Robert “Bob” Coles with the trip of a lifetime.
“We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials,” Joe Byron, who in 2009 started the New England chapter of the national Honor Flight Network organization, said on the group’s website.
“We are losing World War II veterans at the rate of approximately 1,000 per day,” based on 2008 statistics, Byron states, adding that many of the veterans have never seen the war memorials that were created to honor them.
The World War II Memorial opened in April 2004, the Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in July 1995, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened in 1982. All are located on the National Mall, which also includes the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Hendrickson was born at home in Brewer on Nov. 14, 1920. He still lives in town, and his living room is filled with memorabilia of his years in the U.S. Navy Air Corps during World War II.
Coles is in his mid-80s and “was a sailor who was in for a long time, some 30 years,” Hendrickson said.
Coles is heading to Hendrickson’s home Saturday and the two will meet up with other veterans at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., early Sunday. From there they will take a bus to the airport for the Honor Flight to the nation’s capital.
Coles told Hendrickson during a recent phone conversation that he plans to wear his former uniform when he gets to Washington.
“I thought that was great,” Hendrickson said. “I sent mine to Poland [after the war because clothing was needed there]. They had nothing over there. Of course, now I wish I had some of [the uniform]. The only thing I have left now is a belt that I carried my bullets in.”
The Honor Flight Network “has flown more than 40,000 WWII vets to Washington in the past five years,” the group’s website states. The first flight for Honor Flight New England, based in Hooksett, N.H., took off in June 2009.