Mecosta man, grandson experience Washington, D.C. with Mid-Michigan Honor Flight

HONORING SACRIFICE: Ron Ray poses for a photo with his grandfather, Ron Ray, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., during a trip with Mid-Michigan Honor Flight. The elder Ray served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. (Courtesy photos)

HONORING SACRIFICE: Ron Ray poses for a photo with his grandfather, Ron Ray, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., during a trip with Mid-Michigan Honor Flight. The elder Ray served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. (Courtesy photos)

MECOSTA  — Despite insistence from friends and family, Ron Ray simply didn’t understand all the fuss and pressure for him to fly to Washington, D.C., with Mid-Michigan Honor Flight. Then he finally went on the trip.

Ray, 88, of Mecosta, took the journey last week with his grandson, also Ron Ray, as his guardian, departing from Traverse City on Oct. 13 for a whirlwind day touring the nation’s capitol and the monuments dedicated to honoring veterans such as the elder Ray, who served in the U.S. Army.

“I just didn’t see anything that was going to be interesting about it,” the Korean War veteran explained. “But it was completely different than what I had thought it would be.”

The day was filled with visiting various military memorials and monuments, as well as stopping at Arlington National Cemetery, where attendees witnessed the changing of the guard.

While Ray had been to Washingon, D.C., in the past, his recent trip was filled with new sights compared to his first visit.

“In the ’60s I went, but that was before all these memorials. I like to think I’d seen it all, but I guess a lot happens after you’ve seen it all,” he laughed.

The trip had numerous overwhelming moments for Ray, from visiting the Korean War Memorial to the many handshakes and hugs from thankful strangers to the warm welcome received at the airport upon returning to Traverse City.

“I probably shook 1,000 hands,” Ray smiled.

“Everyone was so welcoming and everywhere we went people were thanking them,” the younger Ray chimed in.

TOUR OF HONOR: Ron Ray stops to read some of the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

TOUR OF HONOR: Ron Ray stops to read some of the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Throughout the tour through Washington, D.C., the buses carrying the veterans received VIP status with police escorts helping them zip through traffic.

“There was no stopping at all. We got through D.C. pretty quick,” the elder Ray said.

Attending the trip were veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. For the younger Ray, being part of the experience was amazing, he said.

“It was just so cool to see how the veterans reacted and how touched they were by the day,” he said. “The effects were different for each one, depending on their past and history. It was moving.”

While the younger Ray currently serves on the Morton Township Fire Department, the elder Ray also has experience as a firefighter and was a former chief at what was then known as the Mecosta Fire Department. Now, the two Rons have yet another connection.

“It’s awesome to have been able to share this with him,” Ray said, looking at his grandpa.

Although he wasn’t too sure about the trip to begin with, the elder Ray is sure glad he went.

“When we got back, after a lot of thinking and studying I thought, ‘Well why did I not want to go before?'” he chuckled.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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