An honor to serve

Published 8:22 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Willie Caughlan served his country with great pride, in Vietnam, in Germany, in Korea and here at home.

He retired from the United States Army after 20 years. Much of that time, he was in air traffic control. No matter where he served, when or how, Caughlan said it was an honor.

“I love my country and wanted to have a small part in keeping it safe so that other generations could enjoy the freedoms that I have enjoyed,” Caughlan said. “I was honored to serve.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

It was not until many years later, that, in an unexpected way, Caughlan had the opportunity to honor the many who laid down their lives to preserve America’s freedoms and way of life.

Perhaps, on a chance, Caughlan applied for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. But, held to the hope for what would be the experience of lifetime.

Caughlan’s hope became reality.

Upon Caughlan’s acceptance, his son applied and was selected to go on the Honor Flight with his dad. For both, it was an experience of a lifetime.

“There are no words to say what the Honor Flight meant to me and to have my son with me… there are just no words,” Caughlan said. “The first place we visited was the World War II Memorial that honors the 16 million who served in the United States armed forces.”

Caughlan said the WWII Memorial opened in 2004 when the youngest of the WWII veterans were in their late 70s.

“I wish they all could have known that their service will always be remembered,” he said.

“We visited the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials. I couldn’t believe I was having a chance to honor those who died and all those who served. I made rubbings of the names of two soldiers that I knew of who died in Vietnam.  Being there, made me realize even more how much freedom has cost.”

For Caughlan, visiting Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns was an unforgettable experience. Just how it happened that Caughlan was chosen for the honor of laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, he doesn’t know.

“I have never had a feeling like that,” he said. “My son held my hand to comfort me. When it was time to lay the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns, I couldn’t help the tears. When ‘Taps’ was played there were many tears.”

Caughlan said there are no words to express appreciation for the Honor Flights, for the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. and to give honor to those who have died; those who served and those who were left behind. “And to honor all those who have served and preserved the many freedoms that we enjoy today. Nothing has meant more to me than that.”