Ike and Lavon Wasson greeted me at church with smiles wondering how they could best express their appreciation for the many letters Ben Miller, Ike's son-in-law and Hauser graduate, delivered to Ike on a recent Honor Flight to Washington. I thought an article would be one way and recently visited Ike and Lavon in their home of 52 years where they proudly displayed the letters in their living room.

Some of you might know Ike through The Town of Hope model he constructed that represents Hope as it was in the 1930s and 40s. He joined Merrill Clouse, Mr. Hope, on a CD explaining what was around the square then. Ike is well known for his handiwork with wood and other materials.

In 1952, the same year I entered this world, Ike reported to the Korean War at the age of 21. He almost did not make it there due to getting terribly sick while being at the Arkansas Fort Chaffee Boot Camp. His mother was called. (His dad had died when Ike was 15.) They stressed for her to get there in less than 24 hours if wanting to see her son alive. Miraculously, Ike pulled out of it just before her arrival.

While in the war zone, he was in the Artillery Unit and responsible for big guns while quickly rising from Private to Sergeant E5. He stayed focused on doing his job and staying alive. Each month, he earned $71 and sent home about $50 to his mom. Ike was in the war just over a year and felt fortunate to return in good shape, even if his hearing would never be the same due to the guns referred to as Roaring Hell. Only two people met him in Indianapolis in 1953, his mother and sister; however, 2016 would prove to be very different!

Once home, Ike purchased a 53 Chevy for $1,800 with money won through some nifty card playing and what his mom had saved back for him. It wasn't long after his return that a peace treaty was signed even though there are still around 25,000 American troops in South Korea today. In time, he got a job at Cummins Engine Company where he retired after 30 years.

Two years ago, Ike filled out an application and started the process of joining other vets on an Honor Flight to Washington DC. David Burton, Hauser graduate, offered to be his guardian, a gift Ike will never forget. Plainfield High School was like a base camp where hundreds of volunteers from the Plainfield and Avon communities helped to make sure all vets and guardians were well taken care of on Friday evening in preparing for their big day and on Saturday before leaving and upon returning.

Ike was touched by the hundreds of people lined up to greet them on each side of the Reagan National Airport terminal before they boarded a tour bus taking them to the war memorials. Once there, David, a walking mailman after serving years in the Air Force, did a great job driving Ike's wheelchair and providing information about the memorials. Wherever he was, Ike felt a sense of pride as others respectfully interacted with him and the other vets. He enjoyed speaking with Bob Dole, well-known politician and World War II veteran, who makes it a point to be present during Honor Flight days.

When returning to Plainfield High School, all the vets were warmly greeted by many people waving flags. Ike received a large bag of mail with letters from students of Teresa Satterfield & Dan Fleming at Hope Elementary and from students of Ben Finke and Bob Nobbe at Hauser as well as letters from students at Smith Elementary in Columbus & Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. In addition, he received letters from family, friends, church members, and politicians. It took hours to get through all of them, some causing tears and others a smile. I heard words like "worth reading, creative, always a part of my memory, and precious" to describe them. David took many pictures and his wife, the former Shelli Misner, also a Hauser graduate, helped put together a memory album of the trip. Ike and Lavon want everyone to know how grateful they are for such a moving experience!