BRYAN, Texas - He fought the enemy on the muddy fields of Okinawa, Japan. Now the World War II veteran is on his way to Washington D.C. to say goodbye to lost friends, and a chance for a little closure. All free of charge.
Holly Rees, 88, has lived in the same home in Bryan for the past 57 years. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1945, at the young age of 19, Rees was sent to the front lines in Okinawa. He spent 32 days in battle, fighting the enemy in the thick mud and heavy rains.
"The tanks and the jeeps couldn't get through the mud. Sometimes, they'd have to air drop ammunition and food to us," said Rees.
On the morning of the 21st of June, the U.S. Declared Okinawa was secured. Around 2 that afternoon, Rees was shot in the foot by an enemy sniper.
"It wasn't as secure as they thought it was," said Rees.
That injury would earn Rees a Purple Heart to add to his well decorated military career.
"It's been almost 70 years, and some of those memories are almost as clear as if it happened today," said Rees.
On Friday, Rees packed his bag and headed to Hobby Airport in Houston for a trip to Washington D.C.
He's one of 25 World War II veterans going on the trip. The new friends will visit the World War II Memorial, as well as other sights around town.
The flight is paid for in full for the vets by volunteers and sponsors of Honor Flight Houston. A branch of the national non-profit group dedicated to honoring veterans by flying them to Washington D.C. to reflect on their memories.
Rhonda Harshbarger and her husband started Honor Flight Houston last June.
"We've been working since then to get this first flight up off the ground," said Harshbarger. "Most of these guys have never seen their memorial. It was built for them, and we want them to see it."
Harshbarger said it's important to get as many flights in the air as soon as possible.
"Time is of the essence. We're losing these guys at a rate of about 600 a day nationally," said Harshbarger. "So we're trying our best to get every World War II veteran to the memorial."
The next flight is scheduled for June, but Harshbarger said they need more volunteers and sponsors. To learn more, click on the link added to this story.