Wally Hastings, who graduated from West Point, served in Korea and two tours in Vietnam, was recognized for his service to the country through Honor Flight.
Honor Flight is a nonprofit, created in 2005 by Jeff Miller and Earl Morse that recognizes American Veterans for their sacrifices and achievements. They fly vets to Washington, D.C. “to see YOUR memorial at no cost.”
Hastings, 93, said he had heard about the organization from Dr. Mike Martini, also a vet, but that this was the first time the schedule worked for him.
The Palisades resident flew out of LAX on May 5 with 36 other veterans, who were each accompanied by a “guardian.” In Hastings’ case, he selected his son Trey, also a West Point grad (1989) and a veteran of the first Desert Storm, to keep him company and push a wheelchair.
Upon arrival at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, all vets were put in wheelchairs. They were pushed past a group of about 200 people who had gathered specifically to cheer them, thank them for their service and wave flags.
“Both of us were in tears,” Trey said and added the logistics for the tour were amazing. After arriving at the hotel, there was a group dinner. The nonprofit pays the vets’ costs, including airfare, food and lodging.
On Saturday morning, the vets were taken to Arlington Cemetery and observed the changing of the guard and the laying of the wreath.
Next the group went to the Marine Corps Memorial (Ira Jima), dedicated in 1954, and then to the Air Force Memorial, dedicated in 2006, located in Arlington County, Virginia.
About 100 people (vets, guardians, nurses and ancillary organizational members) then went to the World War II Memorial, which initially opened in 2004. The group visited the Lincoln Memorial, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2022.
Next the group visited the Vietnam Memorial, dedicated in 1993, which lists the names of 58,318 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.
From there they visited the Korean Memorial, dedicated in 1995, where they saw the 19 statues created by Vermont sculptor Frank Gaylord. The statues include 14 soldiers, three Marines, one sailor and one airman. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment.
The group concluded its day at the FDR memorial, opened in 1997, in West Potomac Park.
After another meal and a night in the hotel, the next morning vets were transported to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, where they were given a tour.
After a flight delay, they arrived back at LAX around 1:30 a.m. on May 7. “There were 100 people cheering, clapping, there were flags and music,” Hastings said. “It was a sharp contrast to how Vets were treated coming back from Vietnam.”
Hastings’ grandfather Wallace fought in World War I and II and had graduated from West Point in 1924.
The Palisades resident was an “Army” brat that traveled the country with his dad. After his graduation from West Point in 1952 and his service in the two wars, he continued to serve, finally retiring from the Army in 1973.
He worked with Hughes as an engineer until he retired in 1989.
He had met his wife Maida in Alabama and they married in 1965.
The couple moved to the Palisades in 1972 and have three children Susan [Watson], Trey and Valarie [Jonas].
Hastings is active in the American Legion, Sons of the American Legion, Optimist Club and St. Matthew’s Parish.