Three local veterans reflect on Indy Honor Flight trip

Rick Roberts served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971.

Russell Box served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1970 and then was in the U.S. Army Reserve for three years and spent the next 20 years in the Indiana National Guard.

Michael Weber served in the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1966.

Roberts went overseas to Vietnam and Cambodia, Box went to Thailand and Weber spent all of his career stateside.

While they all served their country at different times and in different places and capacities, the local men have a couple of similarities.

First, they all are members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 honor guard. Second, they recently went on the same Indy Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

Indy Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor Indiana’s World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans for their service and sacrifice by transporting them to see their memorials in Washington, D.C., for free, according to A family member, friend or volunteer accompanies them on the trip.

Roberts, 73, of Seymour was joined by his daughter, Lea Chandler. Box, 76, of Seymour was escorted by friend and fellow veteran Danny Jones. Weber, 79, of Scipio was accompanied by his daughter, Karen Alexander.

“My words would be if you’re a military person and a veteran, go for it because it’s well worth the trip,” Box said in summing up the trip.

“I think all three of us would turn around and go right back tomorrow. It was just an awesome trip,” Roberts said.

“I think probably it was the most emotional part of my life,” Weber said. “It was just great to be around other veterans. You met new friends and comrades, some of them in service with you or in the same service. You may not know them. It was mainly meeting new people, talking to them.”

Roberts said the three of them applied to go on the trip in 2019. Chandler said it typically takes about 18 months before a veteran learns if his or her application is approved, and by that time, the COVID-19 pandemic started and halted trips for 2020 and 2021.

Finally, in August of this year, the men found out they would be going on Indy Honor Flight 37 on Oct. 15.

The day before the trip, veterans and their families were invited to dinner at Plainfield High School, where they were treated like royalty from the start.

“They were VIPs the whole trip,” Chandler said, noting she and the other guardians took a two-hour training in Indianapolis so they could ensure the veterans are treated like VIP guests, following the motto “We’re ridiculously happy.”

The flight included 86 veterans — 81 Vietnam and five Korea — and 86 guardians.

Once they arrived in the nation’s capital, they visited the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, U.S. Air Force Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

At several of those places, people were there to greet them, including service members, Scouts, Civil Air Patrol members and a Navy choir.

“When you land, you get a tear in your eye up there at D.C.,” Roberts said. “They had Scouts out there and people greeting us and stuff. After awhile, it kind of got a little bit embarrassing. To me, it did. It felt great.”

Seeing the memorials and watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington were highlights for Box.

“It’s just outrageously historical. That’s all there is to it,” he said.

On the flight home, the veterans were surprised with mail call. Each of them received a packet of mail from family members, friends, schoolchildren and others who had made cards or written letters.

Cue the tears again.

“It put a tear in your eye,” Roberts said, noting someone asked him if that was happiness rolling down his cheek, and he said, “Yeah.”

“That mail call, it was really emotional to everybody. You could just see it,” Weber said. “I started opening mine up when the lights came on up there, and I got the last one opened up when we landed at Indianapolis. I was opening up quite a few of them and reading them.”

When they arrived at Plainfield High School, they were greeted by a gymnasium full of family, friends and supporters welcoming them back home.

“Everything was emotional,” Weber said.

The guardians were impressed with the trip, too.

“The amount of support and love that is shown and all of the people volunteering, it’s very humbling,” Chandler said.

“To me, it was an honor to be part of this,” she said. “It was my sixth time going to Washington, D.C., and I went with two eighth grade field trips, but this was by far a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I’m a Scout leader, so seeing all of those Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, I was bawling getting off of the plane, too. It just really hit me. I couldn’t imagine how it affected (the veterans).”

Alexander said she had tried to get her dad to apply for the trip in the past, and she’s glad it finally happened.

“He never felt worthy because he never went overseas,” she said. “I’m glad that this experience let not just him but anybody who didn’t go overseas or served overseas to know that they did play an important role together. They were a piece of the puzzle that all fit together to make everything happen.”

Being an Army veteran himself, Jones said the trip was special. He was surprised by a stack of mail on the plane ride back home, too.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ve told everybody ‘If you go on this flight and you don’t get a tear in your eye and get choked up, you ain’t human.’ Just like these guys when they went into the gym coming back, it was emotional for me.”

For all three veterans, knowing they served their country means a lot to them.

Roberts is originally from Kurtz and graduated from Clearspring High School in 1967. Two years later, he was drafted into the Army. After spending less than a year overseas, he went to Fort Benning in Georgia before getting out of the military. Back home, he spent 32 years working in machine repair for Cummins.

“I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody else, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said of his time spent overseas.

Box grew up in Bedford and graduated from Tunnelton High School in 1967. That November, he married before being drafted into the Army and then transferring over to enlistment. In Thailand, his job was direct support for Vietnam, working as a heavy wheeled and track mechanic. He continued as a mechanic in the Army Reserve and National Guard.

“It meant that I was just doing a job that had to be done,” he said of his service.

Weber graduated from Seymour High School in 1961, and since there were no jobs available at the time, he enlisted in the Air Force. His older brother had joined right before him. He spent all of his career at Bunker Hill Air Force Base as an aircraft and missile electrician. After leaving the military, he worked at Cummins for 31 years.

“I feel that my job was most important, especially during any type of war or whatever. We were continuously on alert. The B-58 bomber was the newest thing the Air Force had and went twice the speed of sound,” he said. “It was just the thought that I did my job the best I could.”

At a glance 

Applications for the Indy Honor Flight are available locally at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925, 311 S. Jackson Park Drive, Seymour.

They also can be found online at

The trips are for World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. People interested in being a guardian or volunteering with the ground crew on a trip also may fill out an online application.