The third Honor Flight from Kern County will be wheels up this Friday. And for the first time, two local women who served in World War II will make the trip to Washington D.C.
Seaman First Class Lavon Hillinga served in the Navy. She repaired planes and met her husband during the war. And, she knows those memories will come back on this trip.
"You don't forget those experiences," said Hillinga.
When Hillinga was just 20, she got her parents' permission and joined the Navy near the end of World War II.
"You don't think of wood work in the Navy, for crying out loud. But, that's where I landed," said Hillinga.
She landed on the North Island in San Diego. Hillinga would repair thin plywood on fighter jets that were riddled with battle wounds.
"So, they would bring them into the wood shop and we would cut out the hole and make a patch and patch 'em up," recalled Hillinga.
And, Hillinga's small female frame made it easier for her to modify B-24 Bombers, squeezing into wing spaces or sliding underneath.
"So, we took out the belly torrent and installed radar, so that involved a lot of riveting and so I was also Rosie," Hillinga laughed.
Hillinga served for nearly two years. For her, out of war, sprang love when she met sailor and Medal Smith First Class, Bill Hillinga. They were married for 60 years and had five children. They would travel together, but never did they see the World War II Memorial in D.C. And, Bill died seven years ago before the opportunity of an Honor Flight.
"I know there are going to be memories of him when I'm there. That's why it's going to be so surreal," said Hillinga.
Hillinga will be escorted to D.C. on the Honor Flight by her daughter and will be sharing the experience with about 24 other World War II veterans. They will be seeing something they all, including her husband, helped achieve.
"I've thought about how it's going to be to see it. I think it will be very emotional, bring back a lot of memories. I'm just very appreciative of what is happening," said Hillinga.
The next Honor Flight leaves at 6:30 Friday morning. Organizers are hoping for a crowd at the airport to send the heroes, like Lavon, off in style. They will return around 9:30 Sunday night.