Long-time pals enjoy Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
Military veterans and long-time friends Don Ince, left, and Hayden Adkison were treated to an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. for their service to the country.
Eighty years ago when they started playing together in Louisiana as four-year-olds, Don Ince and Hayden Adkison had no idea they would be honored together one day for their service in the United States military.
But that’s what happened last week when the 1946 Louisiana High School graduates were flown to Washington, D.C. on the 17th Great River Honor Flight out of Quincy, Ill.
The Honor Flight program flies World War II and Korean War veterans free of charge to the nation’s capital to visit war monuments and the sites there.
“It was wonderful,” said Ince, who is now 84, as is Adkison.
The pals met in 1932 when Adkison went to the home of his relatives, who lived near Ince in Louisiana.
“We played twice a day and then we went to school together,” Adkison said.
“The first thing we did when we got out of school was enlist,” Ince said.
“We were considered World War II veterans but the feuding had stopped,” with the end of the war in 1945.
Ince served on a U.S. Navy ship, hauling troops of different nations on the seas to maneuver sites. He went to work for LaCrosse Lumber Company in 1949 and retired in 1998.
He remains married to Mary Lou Ince and they raised four children. They now enjoy nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Adkison enlisted in the Marine Corps right after graduation. He did readiness checks on F-4 Corsairs and other planes for Marine Air Corps pilots at Cherry Hill, N.C.
He came back to work at the old Hercules plant and then went to Chicago Technical College for his engineering degree.
In 1950, he registered for the Korean War draft and went into the U.S. Army.
Adkison wasn’t ever in a firefight, but he had several scares as a combat supplies team member.
“I ended up taking sandbags, barb wire and pickets to everybody, British, Turks and the (U.S) Marine Corps,” he said.
“Our biggest concern was getting lost and hitting old land mines. There were always firing going on along the ridges and mountains around us.
“One time we got snowed in with 30 drums of napalm.”
Upon returning home, Adkison worked for LaCrosse Lumber and then the old Vulcan plant in Louisiana.
He went with Hercules in 1959 as a project engineer and retired in 1991. His main job was to create and maintain infrastructure at the plant.
He is married to Phyllis Adkison and they raised five cchildren. They also have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Through the years, the veterans maintained their friendship. One day, a friend of Ince’s encouraged him to apply for the Honor Flight. Both men were accepted.
They left Louisiana late on the night of April 10 and had breakfast at John Woods Community College at 1 a.m.
The climbed on a bus at 2 a.m. and rode to St. Louis. They then flew to Baltimore, Md. and were there by 9 a.m.
“USO workers welcomed us with a reception,” Adkison said. U.S. Navy sailors in the airport joined in.
They then took another bus into Washington, D.C.
While there, “The cherry blossoms were in full bloom,” Ince said, as they saw the Lincoln Memorial.
They also went to the U.S. Marine memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the World War II Memorial and Arlington Cemetery, where they saw the changing of the guard.
The highlight for both was a stop at the Air Force Memorial. While there, an Air Force drill team put on a riveting performance.
“They put on a 15-minute show,” Ince said. “They would flip their rifles over their heads and the guy behind would catch it without missing a beat.”
“I was in the American Legion Color Guard here for many years and our routines were only four minutes,” Adkison said.
The Honor Flight buddies and 31 other veterans then got on a plane in Washington, D.C. and flew back to St. Louis.
Once there, they boarded yet another bus for the drive back to Quincy.
When they hit New London, they were met by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a veterans motorcycle group that escorted them back to John Wood Community College.
“That was an awesome part of it,” Adkison said. “There were people along the road waving flags.
“When you walked into that gym (at the college) it brought tears to your eyes.”
“It’s something you wouldn’t ever forget, I’ll tell you,” Ince said.
Both men said they were glad they had served in the military, which taught them discipline. They both encouraged young men to consider the armed forces.
“A lot of young men should go in,” Adkison said. “It will make you different and appreciate home.”