Veterans relive military service aboard Honor FlightSep 30, 2022 12:13PM ● By Becky Ginos
Daniel James sits in front of the Vietnam Wall. James joined the Air Force in 1963. Courtesy photos
HILL AIR FORCE BASE—It’s been 40 years since James Saxton joined the military and served in Vietnam, where he was wounded after being hit by shrapnel when his patrol was attacked at base camp. That was on his daughter’s first birthday.
Saxton made it home but many of his friends did not. He was given the opportunity to go back to Washington, D.C. last week as part of the Honor Flight to see the memorials honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“It was an absolutely wonderful trip,” said Saxton. “I got to meet other veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. We visited the war memorials, saw the White House and Capitol. They just dedicated the new WWI Memorial and we were the first group to see it. It was a neat place.”
Saxton was born and raised in Morgan and joined the Navy in October 1961 and spent seven years aboard three different ship destroyers. “We were off the coast of Vietnam patrolling,” he said. “I wanted to know what was going on in country so I volunteered for special forces. I was wounded on Sept. 13, 1969. I was trying to get the patrol boat out and when I was running the shrapnel hit me – but it was not enough to send me home.”
When he got out of the Navy he worked in highway construction then worked at Hill Air Force Base in the missile division for 21 years. Saxton had heard about the Honor Flight and put in an application in 2020. “The pandemic hit and all of the flights were canceled,” he said. “I forgot about it and then last spring I got another message about this one so I filled out an application again. In August I received a call and they asked me if I’d like to go Sept. 13.”
There were outstanding wonderful people with the Honor Flight, said Saxton. “It was a great experience for me because I would have never gotten an opportunity to do something like this – that made it twice as good for me.”
Kaysville resident Daniel James was also aboard the Honor Flight last week. “It was a tremendous experience,” he said. “When we left there was someone playing bagpipes and others with flags. It was a nice send off.”
The two-day trip was a whirlwind of activities, he said. “When we arrived in D.C. they had an honor banquet and made us feel like we were really important. Singers came in and sang various military songs.”
James joined the Air Force in 1963 and spent three years in Germany. After he was discharged in 1967 he attended school at Weber State and joined the Air Force Reserve in 1974 to 2004 as an E-7 Master Sergeant with the 419th Communications Squadron. He also worked as a civil servant in the Department of Defense at Hill Air Force Base from 1967–2003.
“We saw the Marine Memorial, Iwo Jima, and the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington,” said James. “We also went to the Air Force and WWII Memorials and they had a ceremony there. They brought in flags and each branch of service carried their flag.”
It was a really, really neat experience, he said. “They were two very busy days but we saw the thousands of names of those who gave their lives to enjoy the freedoms we have today. It was very solemn but uplifting seeing all of that.”
When the veterans got home they were greeted by family and friends at the airport to welcome them home. “I thought ‘holy catfish,’ there were hundreds of people cheering and clapping and shaking my hand saying welcome home,” said Saxton. “I thought my arm was going to fall off. It was a wonderful experience and well worth it.” λ