PRATT — Lawrence Voss, an 85-year-old U.S. Army veteran, of Pratt, is grateful for his service as an armored tank operator during the Korean War and his Honor Flight experience last April.
Voss said he is thankful for being able to serve his country and being able to travel to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials.
“Both of these events have left a lasting impression on my life,” Voss said.
Voss was 18 years old when he enlisted in the Army and reported on March 16, 1953, for 16 weeks of Basic Training at Camp Roberts in California. He was honorably discharged on March 16, 1956.
“They kept three years to the day,” Voss said.
Voss said his last military assignment was in Germany as operator of an armored tank weighing 50 tons and carrying 90-millimeter and 30-caliber machine guns.
He was assigned to Germany in November 1954 from Fort Lewis, Wash., where he had received training on tanks.
“Our mission was to hold off the Russians until the last of the Cold War civilians could be evacuated,” Voss said.
“I was there until November 1955 when the U.S. brought the First Division back to Fort Riley, Kansas, where I honorably discharged four months later,” Voss said. “It was great to get back home on American soil and see my family.”
Another experience Voss vividly recalls, though not directly related to his personal military history, was during the Bay of Pigs episode in April 1961.
“My brother Alphons and I sat on a beach in Florida and watched until the Russians withdrew,” Voss said.
Voss said he had his brother Harold, who works part-time at Skaggs Ace Hardware, to thank for initiating his Honor Flight experience as a result of a conversation with an Honor Flight representative who was making a purchase.
“They got the ball rolling,” Voss said.
The Honor Flight group Voss joined for the April Honor Guard experience included 20 veterans and 10 sponsors.
“All expenses are paid for veterans,” Voss said. “Anyone else going attends at their own expense.”
The first and last day of the three-day Honor Flight are for travel, with the second-day packed with tours and capped with a farewell dinner.
Voss’s Honor Flight companions included a nurse and soldiers who served in World War II, along with Korean War and Vietnam veterans.
“It was a true experience, visiting the memorials with the band playing,” Voss said. “It brought back so many memories. It was a heart-touching.”
Also vivid in Voss’s memory is the reception that was awaiting him when he disembarked at the Wichita airport to complete his Honor Flight.
“It was a real hoopla,” Voss said.
Among those greeting Voss, along with wife, Wanda, were a contingent of about 20 family members, including children and grandchildren.
“Rep. Ron Estes was there to greet us, too,” Voss said. “Flags were flying and there was a high school band playing patriotic songs. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
The next scheduled Honor Flights for American veterans are May 5 and June 9, 2020. Information is available at the Honor Flight website, www.veteranshonorflight.org.