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Flight of Honor, part 1

Honor Flight veterans receive a warm welcome
Honor Flight veterans receive a warm welcome(KWTX)
Published: Nov. 3, 2017 at 10:20 PM CDT
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World War II veteran Jennings Bryan "Bug" Paschal and his son Joe from Mexia recently traveled with a group of Veterans to Washington D.C.

They were treated to a fast paced two day trip to experience the National Memorials in Washington D.C.

It was arranged by an organization called Honor Flight DFW.

"I had a cousin that had been and he said it was fantastic, to go. I told Joe and he got the ball rolling," Bug told us.

His son Joe said, "from what I've heard it was a really neat experience, so once I contacted DFW Honor Flight they were quick to contact us and find a place for us on this flight."

There's saying thank you, and then there's showing it.

On this trip, Bug paschal gets to see his nation's gratitude along with his son.

Even those with no relatives to join them can still make the trip with the help of volunteers.

After months of planning, Paschal's big day had come.

We joined him and his son Joe at his home in Mexia as he prepared.

But to find out where this journey truly began you neet to go back 74 years.

Uncle Sam drafted Paschal at the age of 18.

He was in an Army uniform by December 1943 assigned to radar and searchlight technology shooting down enemy planes.

Paschal was reassigned to the 83rd Infantry Division, 331 Infantry Regiment as a replacement.

He soon ended up in Belgium walking through the bloody aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge.

"A lot of casualties during the Battle of the Bulge and it was freezing cold weather outside, a lot of snow so we had it as bad as the enemy," Bug told us

His division marched out of Belgium taking town after town.

But when they made it to Cologne, Germany in March 1945, things went south.

They ended up holed up in a building, locked in a gunfight with the enemy.

"We continued on, they run a tank up to end it I guess they decided, and they told us, 'we will blow your building down unless you surrender.' It didn't take us long to surrender," Bug said, "they told us what to do and how to march and where to stand and we just did what they said."

Paschal and eleven other Americans were loaded into a truck riding over the Rhine River headed for Stalag 12A, one of Germany's largest prisoner of war camps in Limburg, Germany.

"It was pretty rough going there. Nothing to eat or drink. Conditions were just pretty rough," he said.

His quarters: a straw covered floor with thin blanket.

His meals each day: half a cup of soup, mostly water mixed with a few berries and a tiny loaf of bread, not for him, for 12 men.

They got one bite each.

"I was lucky to be there two months, the rest of them was skin and bones and in bad health," Bug told us.

As the Americans advanced the Germans were forced to run, taking the prisoners along.

Paschal marched for two days before the Germans abandoned them to the surprise of their American rescuers.

"We run out to meet the (American) tankers that were coming in and at first they thought we were probably Germans coming in, so had to be careful, start waving and let them know who we are. When we got close they saw who we were and started opening their hatches and giving us everything they had to eat," he told us.

More than 70 years have passed.

Life now is much different.

"I got two boys, one wife, two daughters-in-law, and about eight grandchildren and a couple of great grandchildren," he told us.

And those who love Paschal gave him a big send off at a corsicana diner.

Friends and family gather with tasty donuts and hot cofee for Paschal, fuel for the special trip.

And there's another face he'll see a lot of over the next two days, fellow WWII veterans James Glass.

With a pinning ceremony veteran Phil Paschal bestows a momento upon the soldier a symbol of his past service to carry into the future.

Now he's ready to head to the airport, and embark on a trip he'll never forget.