BAKERSFIELD - Its wheels up for the next Honor Flight Kern County on September 28th. Thirty-three World War II and Korean War veterans will be off on their all expenses paid trip to see their memorials in Washington D.C., thanks to community donations.
When thinking of World War II, many think about the battles and bombings. But, for one local veteran, Richard Arambula, his contributions to the country's effort began after the war ended.
As the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and as Americans celebrated the surrender, 18-year old Arambula was just beginning his Army service.
"It got buried in the history books, but that's the way it happened. Us guys went over and dispersed along the countryside and helped rebuild that country that had been bombed," explained Arambula.
It was March of 1946. Arambula kissed his new wife goodbye to pick up where the guys coming home from Japan had left off. And by pick up, we mean construct what the Allies had destroyed.
"I still remember what I saw, churches destroyed because when they drop something from the air, you don't know really what it's going to hit, you know. So churches, church services being held outdoors because the building was no good. Schools the same way. You could see the classes being held outdoors because those people, I learned, don't quit," said Arambula.
And neither did Arambula, working side by side with the Japanese trying to mend a lifestyle and a relationship with the Cold War looming.
"At that time, the Japanese took us like, you're the victors, you know. We are the defeated group, so do what you want to do," said Arambula.
The process, however, was slow. Arambula spent two years re-shaping suburbs and cities and left with an appreciation of service, his country, and life.
"I always felt like we went over there to do a good thing, not to shoot and destroy. That had happened just before my time. But, we were in the rebuilding process," said Arambula.
Now, this veteran, some might consider an unsung hero, will hear praises on the next Honor Flight. And his wife, Mary of 68 years, will only have to wait a couple days to get him back.
"He can't hardly wait. I saw him the other day trying to pack his clothes. I said wait a minute! You've got until the 28th. You're not going right now," said Mary.
That building excitement is in the man who built for his country, to see what his country built for him in our nation's capitol.
"It just intrigues me. Could I someday go and celebrate? I put in for it. And, I was awarded the chance to go. And, I think I'm going to enjoy it a lot," said Arambula.
Honor Flight Kern County leaves Saturday morning, September 28th. Organizers are hoping for a large crowd to send them off at Meadows Field at 4:30 a.m. The first flight leaves just after 6 a.m., the second at 6:30 a.m. The flights return Monday night.