World War II veteran John Sanderson of Kennewick thought he never would see the U.S. National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"I enjoy traveling, but when you get to be my age, you don't do as much of it anymore," said the 92-year-old Army veteran.
But when the next Inland Northwest Honor Flight for veterans lifts off from the Spokane airport Friday, he will be aboard, heading for a three-day stay in the nation's capital.
"It's an honor to be included and will give me a chance to see all the memorials and monuments I've never had a chance to see. Even though I've crossed through at least 46 states and seven different countries, I've never been to Washington, D.C.," he said.
Inland Northwest Honor Flights is a chapter of the national Honor Flight Network established in Ohio in 2008. Each chapter seeks donations to fly area veterans, for free, to the nation's capital to tour Arlington National Cemetery and other war memorials.
Top priority is given to survivors of WWII and any veteran with a terminal illness who wishes to visit the memorial.
Sanderson joined the Army in January 1941, 13 years before he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.
"I emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland with my mother when I was just a boy. I celebrated my fourth birthday aboard the ship," he said.
They settled in Oklahoma, where they had other family members and later moved to Michigan, where he grew up, worked for the railroad briefly and enlisted in the Army when he was 21 years old.
"I was considered a friendly alien and was accepted into the Army that way," he said.
Sanderson was a military policeman guarding prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater.
"I shipped out in June 1942 and served there until I was sent home on furlough in April 1945. I was only supposed to be home for a month or so, but Germany collapsed, so I got a discharge instead. That was May 1945," Sanderson said.
Back home in Michigan, Sanderson went to work for the United Gas, Coke and Chemical Workers' Union. He visited Seattle in the late 1940s, trying to unionize a chemical company in the city.
"On my way home, I stopped at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, picked up a newspaper and saw the Northern Pacific Railroad was advertising for firemen, so I applied," he said.
The railroad sent Sanderson to work in Pasco, where he spotted his future wife, Orla Deedee Sanderson, sitting in a Pasco restaurant about a block from the Lewis Street underpass.
Mutual friends introduced them and they were married in 1951.
"And here we are 61 years later," Sanderson said.
When he and his wife bought their home in Kennewick in 1953, Sanderson said he decided it was time he became a U.S. citizen.
"To protect my wife and family, my home," he said.
"It's an honor and a privilege to go on this flight, and I feel the same way about serving in the Army," Sanderson said.
"It would make my day to see the president, even from a distance. Harry Truman came through Pasco once, and I was actually within a block of where he was, but I was too tired from working to walk there. I've always regretted it," he said.