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WASHINGTON — Many World War II vets never talked about the war with their families. They buried the horrors and shouldered tough emotional burdens over seven decades.
The Utah Honor Flight, which sends World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorial, can be a painful journey for some veterans. While there are moments of camaraderie, revelry and joy, this is not a summer vacation.
Kay B. Smith grew up in Alpine when it was a town of 400 people. As a young soldier, he was sent into some of the fiercest fighting in Okinawa.
"They say that it was sheer murder," Smith said.
It was the last stand of the Japanese troops.
"They would not be taken as prisoners," Smith said.
In the shadow of the Pacific Arch of the World War II memorial, memories of an enemy encounter surfaced. Smith was headed across a rice patty with a buddy.
"He got hit,” Smith said of his friend. “I got to the other side and turned around talk to him, and saw him out in the center of the rice patty."
His comrade was dead. The young soldier buried the memory.
"Some of the stories are coming out that I've never heard before," said Smith’s son, Scott.
Kay Smith did not want to remember.
"It brings back emotions that I wanted to forget, and others that I can't forget," he said.
Yet the World Ward II memorial serves as a reminder, and therein lies its importance to this veteran, and our country.
"Let's teach the world: peace is so much greater,” Smith said. “Nothing has ever been gained by war."
Scott Smith said ever since the memorial was dedicated, his father has wanted to visit it. It’s something that can bring out those painful memories, but it can also heal.
"I just think of the people who gave their lives, how lucky I was to come through it all," Kay Smith said. "I guess I was blessed.”
Smith’s son added, “He needs to let it go.”
KSL invites you to a welcome home party for the veterans on the latest Honor Flight.
Festivities get underway at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at L3 Communications, 640 N. 2200 West in Salt Lake City.