Remembering fallen comrades

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gilbert Porter, left, Allen Minetree and Allen Jones, all of Franklin, stand in front of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The trio of World War II veterans stopped at the museum during an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A recent trip to the World War II Memorial took 88-year-old Allen Minetree back to D-Day.

“I was thinking about the ones who were killed,” said Minetree, who was part of the June 6, 1944, invasion with more than 160,000 troops landing in Normandy, France. More than 10,000 were killed, including the Franklin man’s lieutenant.

“He’s still buried over there,” said Minetree, who served overseas for about two years with the Infantry Army. “I really admired him.”

Minetree’s Oct. 16 trip to Washington was courtesy of Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia, a five-year-old organization that takes veterans to see the World War II memorial at no cost. He was joined by World War II veterans Allen Jones, 92, and Gilbert Porter, 81, both of Franklin.

Porter and Jones, both retired from Union Camp, had visited the memorial before, but it was a first for Minetree, another Franklin paper mill retiree.

“It was spectacular and it was a pleasure to look at,” Minetree said. “I was proud of this country for doing it.”

The memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces during the war, including the more than 400,000 who died. The memorial, which opened on April 29, 2004, is flanked by the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

Minetree, Jones and Porter started their trip to Washington in the middle of the night. They traveled to Hampton Roads to catch a bus. Every veteran who took the trip was assigned a guardian.

The bus stopped along the way, and veterans were entertained by a high school band and met some Boy Scouts.

The veterans visited Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, where they watched the Changing of the Guard.

“Everywhere we went, people greeted us,” said Porter, who served as an Army military police officer from 1946 to 1947 in northern Italy.

“We were all surprised,” Minetree added. “We didn’t expect that kind of treatment.”

While at the World War II Memorial, Jones reflected on the “buddies he lost” in the war.

“We lost maybe about a third of our squadron,” said Jones, a fighter pilot with the U.S. Army Air Force, who served in England and France for nine months in 1943 and 1944. “They were either captured or killed.”

“You notice a lot of things on a trip like that,” said Porter, who left for Italy in September 1946; anyone who served prior to December of that year was classified as a World War II veteran.

“I came home proud of everyone on that bus,” he said. “The general public made us feel real proud.”