Family reflects on WWII veteran's Honor Flight Nevada trip

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Updated: 5/26/2014 7:06 pm

RENO, Nev (KRNV & MyNews4com) -- One of the veterans who went on the most recent Honor Flight Nevada trip had his son with him, and they said the journey made them closer than ever.

"We never did talk about it for many years," said Thomas Okumura, a WWII veteran. 

Tom is a World War II veteran, but his children have only heard bits and pieces of his story.

"His military service, even though he never talked about it a lot when I was growing up, has been really important to him," his son Mark Okumura said. "A day doesn't go by that he doesn't wear that 442 hat everywhere he goes."

The 442 was a Japanese-American unit. Most of its members - like Tom - joined the military coming from internment camps.

"They were one of the most highly-decorated units in World War II," said Lorie Foerschler, Tom's daughter.

But for Tom his recent trip to Washington D.C. with Honor Flight Nevada is much better to talk about.

"Honor Flight was the most interesting part of my life," Tom said. 

Mark was with him on the trip.

"Sharing this with my father and some of the experiences we had was life-changing," he said.

Lorie said it's also changed their dad's life.

"He's more alive," she said. "That's all I can say. [He's] brighter-eyed and more alive and more engaged than he's ever been."

"He's been on cloud nine," Mark said. "He and I talk almost every day now and that's all we talk about."

"I tell you, every time I go to places I talk about Honor Flight," Tom said.

Mark said it's brought him closer to his dad and changed his outlook on life.

"I've always thought of myself as a pretty patriotic person, but I understand now that there's a big difference between being an American and being a patriot," Mark said. "Guys like my father and World War II Vets, and that generation, they earned the honor to be patriots."

Lorie said Honor Flight is something every child of a veteran should encourage his or her parent to do.

"It certainly gives them such a sense of pride and completion, that all of their sacrifices are honored," she said. 

It creates stories members the greatest generation, like Tom, will be happy to tell.

"It was really something that I'll never forget," Tom said.

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