Local veteran takes part in Ozarks Honor Flight

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Exeter man visits D.C. Exeter resident John Berning, who is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, took part in the Ozarks Honor Flight from Springfield to Washington, D.C., on May 25. Berning visited the World War II Memorial and other sites with his grandson, Matt Holt, a former Exeter resident and current resident of Urbana.

On May 25, John Berning, of Exeter, had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., through the Ozarks Honor Flight. Matt Holt, Berning's grandson, had the honor of escorting Berning on the trip.

"My daughter (Jackie Holt) was supposed to go, but she had to have surgery on her shoulder," said Berning. "Matt said he would go. It made it more enjoyable to go with my grandson. We really enjoyed the trip."

Berning is a World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veteran. He served in the military for 27 years and retired in 1973.

Berning's wife, Helen, applied for Ozarks Honor Flight for her husband after hearing about Jake Mahaffey's trip to Washington, D.C., through the program.

On May 10, Berning was notified that he would take part in the May 25 trip. The couple attended an orientation meeting on May 15 in preparation for the voyage.

Berning and many other veterans arrived at the Springfield Airport at around 5 a.m. on May 25.

"When we got there they had coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts," said Berning. "Then, we had breakfast on the plane. I really enjoyed the three meals."

The plane departed Springfield at 6:30 a.m. The Springfield Fire Department honored the veterans during departure by creating a large water arch, which the plane taxied through before taking off from the airport.

Additional fire trucks and a large crowd welcomed the veterans to Washington, D.C., when the plane landed at around 9:30 a.m. Four buses were used to transport the group of veterans to the World War II Memorial.

"I loved seeing the Memorial," said Berning. "It was so beautiful with the flags and the water. I really enjoyed it."

The World War II Memorial's Freedom Wall features 4,000 gold stars that commemorate more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in the war.

During the trip, Berning and Holt also had the opportunity to visit the Washington Memorial, the Pentagon, the Air Force Memorial, the FBI building and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"The changing of the guard was very impressive," said Berning. "We had a wonderful trip."

When the Ozarks Honor Flight returned to Springfield, the veterans were greeted by a large group of supporters.

"Our daughter, Jackie, and Matt's wife went with me to pick them up," said Helen. "There was a big crowd there to welcome them back. The Shriners were there playing music. It was really neat."

"We got a great surprise seeing all the people waiting to see us arrive," said Berning.

"I want to thank everyone connected with the Flight for allowing the veterans to go to Washington, D.C., to see all the monuments that are dedicated to veterans," said Berning. "Everyone along the way was very courteous and helpful."

Berning earned the following medals during his service: European, Africa, Middle Eastern Campaign with five bronze stars; World War II Victory Medal; Korean SVS Medal and Bronze Campaign Star; Army Medal; Good Conduct Medal; Bronze Star Medal, Vietnam; and a commendation award.

Berning's grandson, Matt Holt, is a former Exeter resident. He currently resides in Urbana.

For more information on Ozarks Honor Flights, call 417-268-3390. Contributions can be made to Ozarks Honor Flight, Box 3500, Springfield MO 65808.

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