A lot has changed since December 1953 when Harold Spence returned home from his tour of duty in the Korean War (1950-53) but the emotions that surfaced when returning home on a plane full of veterans were the same.

By participating in the Honor Flight program Harold and his fellow participants had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice in Korea. Families of the honored were waiting at Midway Airport to welcome the heroes home.

Mr. Spence, 88, was a Yeoman Petty Officer 3rd class in the United States Navy, and served in the Reserves from 1948-1952 and Active Duty in the Korean Conflict in 1952 and 1953, now lives at Presence Fox Knoll Retirement Community (421 North Lake Street, Aurora) while receiving care from Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care (1550 Bishop Court, Mount Prospect). It was Cindy Laurent, Mr. Spence’s Rainbow Hospice social worker, who contacted Honor Flight to see if she could ask for an earlier trip. He had been on the list for an April trip, but she knew his dream needed to come true sooner.

“We were grateful that Cindy reached out to this wonderful organization to make Mr. Spence’s dream come true,” said James Brady, executive director at Presence Fox Knoll Retirement Community. “Seeing his smile and hearing the joy his family had in knowing this would happen was such a blessing to me and my whole team.”

Mr. Spence and his son, Ken Spence, boarded a flight at Midway Airport on Friday, Nov. 10 and returned home on Sunday, Nov. 12.

“Due to the efforts of founder, Earl Morse and his staff, it was the most memorable flight including the police escort everywhere on a motor coach bus,” remarked Harold Spence. “I met a bunch of nice veterans. The trip to the memorials was most impressive. We made a trip to the wall and it was the most moving experience. A big thank you to Cindy Laurent, who was instrumental in making this all happen and my family who have supported me and especially my son, Ken, who was my guardian this entire trip.”

On Friday, Nov. 10 Harold Spence, a Yeoman Petty Officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict, received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Midway Airport from Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight program. His family (from left to right) daughters-in-law Debbie Spence and Mary Spence and granddaughters Joanne Zumanski and Leanne Wills.