Sean Tracy’s long-time interest in history and veterans led to a veterans’ project at employer StoryPoint Senior Living in 2016, which expanded this year to include an Honor Flight trip by four residents of the company’s Troy community.
Don Barnes, who served in the Army, and Richard Votaw, who served in the Navy, both in the early to mid-1950s, were among those selected to make the trip to Washington, D.C.
They joined other veterans on an Honor Flight journey in April departing from Dayton International Airport.
“I was surprised when I was told I was going,” said Barnes, 86, who last visited Washington on his high school senior trip in 1950. “I sure couldn’t turn it down.”
Of all the stops, Barnes, who was a stockade guard at Fort Lewis, Washington, and later worked at Dayton Power and Light, was most impressed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Votaw, who graduated high school in Dayton, joined the Navy after high school and was an electronics technician stationed in London for two years. He was told he would be riding in a wheelchair during the journey so “I could sit back and see what was going on,” he said.
Votaw, 84, worked up and down the East Coast for several years and lived in Washington for a couple of years so he was familiar with most of the memorials, except the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument.
“It just blew me away. It was great,” he said.
Votaw later held a variety of positions, including working for NCR, owning a Baskin-Robbins franchise in the Dayton area and retiring from the postal service.
The most impressive part of the trip, the men said, was the crowds of people who greeted the veterans at the airports in Washington and Dayton.
Also making the flight were residents Julia Willoughby and Vickie Boone, Navy nurses who served during Vietnam.
Tracy was working at a StoryPoint community in Michigan and interviewing veteran residents as a hobby when he was offered the veterans project position to recognize all veteran residents.
So far he’s interviewed some 400 veterans and makes models of ships, tanks, planes or trucks that were part of their particular military service and presents them to the veterans.
“People really need to find a way to thank and share the admiration and respect of our veterans,” Tracy said. “They need to hear before they pass away they are appreciated.”
Tracy’s efforts were highlighted in a PBS program and the Honor Flight trip by the four Troy veterans is featured in a video on YouTube.