WWII vet takes Honor Flight, visits war memorials

Photo by Debbie Hronek Betty Koon returning from the Big Sky Honor Flight recently at Billings Airport.


At 90 years old, WWII veteran Betty Koon of Red Lodge along with 83 other Montana veterans visited the nation’s capitol for the Big Sky Honor Flight. As a way to pay tribute to the American veterans for their many sacrifices while serving our country, the 36-hour free trip, June 16-17 brought the vets to see both their memorial as well as the many other monuments in Washington D.C. “It was something else.

What I really enjoyed was the FDR monument. It was a large monument that covered each of his terms and engraved in stone were some of his famous sayings. FDR was my hero, so I remembered a lot of things he did and it brought back many memories,” said Betty, who had never visited the capitol prior to this trip. With her daughter Mary as an escort, the group of 79 men and four women toured the Lincoln, Vietnam War, Korean War, WWII, FDR and Iwo Jima Memorials. Chartering a plane and buses to transport the veterans, the Big Sky Honor Flight provided full accommodations for the needs of the elderly. Betty explained, “The committee that puts the Honor Flights together does it 150 percent. If we needed something they were there. They were all wonderful.” Impressed with the organization of the trip, Mary believes her mother, who served from 1944-1945 as a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the other vets received the homecoming they deserve.

“When the plane took off in Billings they had water cannons with hoses that sprayed over the plane. When we returned, there were about 200 people there with signs to greet the veterans. It was pretty amazing,” said daughter Mary Koon. Betty, whose husband also served five years during WWII, joined the Navy WAVE to release a sailor for active duty to work for the transportation department in Oklahoma. “All these old people never had a real homecoming, so it was nice to be honored,” said Betty.