Ralph H. Dixon Sr., 86, is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army. On Oct. 23, he was ceremonially put back on active duty with other veterans for a special experience.
Dixon, a Korean War-era and Vietnam War veteran, gathered other veterans from past conflicts at Hunter Army Airfield for their Honor Flight to Washington.
“The mission of the Honor Flight Network is to fly America’s veterans to Washington, D.C., so that they may visit the memorials built and dedicated to honor their sacrifices in past wars,” according to the Honor Flight Network Savannah website.
Dixon, of Hinesville, retired as a sergeant first class. He worked in maintenance, supply and ordnance during his career. He served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966 with 618th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company from Fort Stewart.
He also did a tour to Korea in the late 1960s on occupation duty with 8th Army Support Command, where he spent his time inspecting tools and equipment across the country.
At the October send-off on Hunter Army Airfield, past, present, and future veterans were represented. Before the Honor Flight participants embarked, 10 new soldiers were sworn in. And as the veterans headed to their charter bus, current military members lined the path, representing the different branches.
Once on the bus, Dixon and the other veterans were escorted by motorcycles to Interstate 95 before they headed off to the nation’s capital.
During the trip, Dixon and the veterans had “mail call” just like they did in the military. He received a manila envelope filled with letters from his family, friends, local students and members of his church. And on the way back, they received letters from U.S. Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., as well as a senator from South Carolina.
Dixon also had a guardian, an active-duty airman from Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, with him for the entire trip.
On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Honor Flight participants visited the World War II Memorial and met some well-known faces from the Fort Stewart community.
“That was awesome,” Dixon said of the World War II Memorial. “All kinds of people. And there’s a lot of people from Georgia there and a lot of young kids there.”
Carter and former Fort Stewart Commanding General Lt. Gen. John “Mike” Murray and his wife, Jane, greeted the veterans at the memorial.
The group also visited several other sites, including the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
“Now that can get you,” he said of the Vietnam memorial.
Every year during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah, Dixon said, he carries two names of soldiers from the Vietnam War with him while he marches. While at the memorial, he was able to find and take photos of their names on the wall.
As a Vietnam veteran seeing the memorial, “You know unless you’ve been over there, it’s just hard to say,” Dixon said. “It was just awesome, and it brought all kinds of memories back. But I don’t let it bother me ’cause I only pick out the good ones and keep them in my mind.”
Dixon said seeing the war memorials with other veterans from other wars made him want to “thank the people of America for honoring you the way they do. We didn’t get recognized in Vietnam for many, many years.”
“It just feels great. I mean, just feels like a relief,” he added.
For veterans who have never been on an Honor Flight but are interested in going, Dixon pointed to the name of the program for why they should go.
“Well, the name of it is ‘honor.’ It’s to honor the veterans that served this country so well,” he said.
Because of this experience, Dixon said he appreciates America more, and he would not give up being an American for anything.
“So it’s just proud to be American.”