Friday afternoon in Waterville, American legion members gave a World War II veteran a hero’s send off as he heads out a trip that’s long overdue.
Here at the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5 in Waterville, the day was all about Burns Hillman, a United States Marine Corps veteran who served proudly in World War II and even at the age of 89, can still recite his old rifle number by heart.
“You had to take it to bed with you, eat with you, sleep with you, until you knew that rifle number,” Hillman said.
Awhile back, Hillman and his family heard about the Honor Flight Program that takes veterans from all over the United States on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. to see the memorials honoring their service to our country. It’s a program that Hillman didn’t pay a lot of attention to, that is until his family filled out his application.
“My son got after me and I think he did some behind the scenes to get me to go.”
Hillman says he couldn’t believe it when he received word he was selected to go on the trip. Now, nearly 70 years after serving in World War II, Hillman will get his first ever glimpse of the memorial erected partially in his honor. He’ll do it with his fellow veterans by his side.
“It’ll be just like old times,” he said. “I know we’ll be discussing what we were and where we were.”
Friday at the American Legion post he once commanded, current members gathered to present him with gifts and wish him well on his trip…
“It’s a history coin and on the back it has the flag raising and Iwo Jima.”
As Hillman headed for the airport, a pair of bald eagles flew overhead, a subtle tribute to a deserving hero.