The North Bend Eagle


 

Honor Flight
Ruth Bertone, Ruby Urban and Deann Souza pose with their dad, Ruben Kavan, at the Korean War Monument in Washington, D.C.

Snow doesn't dampen Korean vet's Honor Flight

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 4/2/14

Ruben Kavan remembers his time in Korea with remarkable clarity. What he saw in Korea is not easily forgotten.

These memories were brought up again when he boarded an airplane in Omaha that took him and 461 other Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C. This was the largest group on any Honor Flight since the program started in 2005.

Kavan just about didn’t take the trip. He heard about it, signed up for it with the help of daughter Ruby Urban, but was hesitant as the departure day neared. He worried that his health would not be up for the trip. Bill Williams, organizer of the trip, called Urban and said he’d make a trip out to the farm to talk to Kavan if necessary to get him to go on the trip. Kavan decided to go.

One of the volunteers did call Kavan and told him “this flight is for you.”

“He was out of his comfort zone,” daughter Deann Souza said.

His children did what they could to help him enjoy the day. Kavan’s sons, Dean and Roland, got him to the airport in Omaha. Daughters Urban and Ruth Bertone flew out to Washington D.C. Monday, and met up with Souza, who lives in Virginia. Kavan gets around with a cane at home, but the family had found a wheelchair for him to use for the trip.

The daughters were at the Korean War Veteran’s monument when Kavan arrived. Family members could join their fathers on the tour but were not able to fly with them. There was a guardian volunteer for every three veterans on the three planes. There were 14 motor coaches taking the veterans and families around Washington, D.C., with police escort.

The only damper on the day was the weather. There was a light snow all day, just enough to make the day “more miserable” Kavan said, reminding them what they faced in Korea.

When asked what was his favorite part, without hesitation, Kavan said, “All of it.”

“It was a wonderful opportunity for Dad,” Bertone said. “It was so special to be able to be there to watch him enjoy it. He was surrounded by family from beginning to the end of the trip.”

Kavan went to Korea in March 1952. His first duty was to hold the line on Punch Bowl, an area along the 38th parallel. Then he served on Heartbreak Ridge, guarded men, women and children who were prisoners at Koje-do, and served in other spots along the 38th parallel. Kavan was in a heavy rifle company and was always targeted by the enemy. He worked his way up to became a platoon leader

“It’s very interesting that I made it home without a scratch,” Kavan said. “There wasn’t time to be scared, there was no place to run. It’s all luck. Without luck you are in trouble. I had a friend who got it in a bunker I just got out of.”
In January 1953 Kavan was sent home. He was processed out in Japan and returned home to Morse Bluff to farm.

Through the efforts of his family and the volunteers on the Honor Flight, Kavan had a great time. His one wish was that he’d gone to D.C. 20 years ago.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Kavan said. “Everyone should go.”
The motor coaches took them to the Korean War Veteran’s Monument and Arlington National Cemetery where they saw the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Other sites, including the White House, Lincoln and Washington Monuments, were just seen from the bus.

Kavan remembers that when he came home from Korea, “no one honored us. We were just glad to be home.”

When he returned from the Honor Flight, there were 500 to 1,000 people at the airport.

“I never shook so many hands,” Kavan said. “It was a long time coming but it was worth it.”

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