Brothers take Honor Flight

Published 3:30 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ralph and Leon Burnham visited the Korean War Memorial during their Honor Flight trip last week.

Leon and Ralph Burnham rose before dawn last week to start a 23-hour whirlwind trip to the nation’s capital as part of a group of 50 veterans from around the region.
The brothers, who served in different branches of the military, took part in the trip sponsored by the Honor Flight Network.
“Every part of the trip was wonderful,” Ralph said. “When we go to the Pensacola (Fla.) airport, we were greeted by people who were there to see us off. The commercial flight took us to Atlanta and there were people there to greet us, too. The pilot announced to everyone on the plane that the Honor Flight group was on board. We got a big round of applause from the other people on the plane.”
Leon said his first of many emotional moments on the trip came when the plane touched down in Atlanta.
“There were fire trucks on either side of the plane spraying water as we touched down,” Leon said. “As a fireman of 36 years, I was getting a double dose by being honored by the fire department and being on the trip.”
The trip, coordinated by the Covington Region Honor Flight organization, took the honored soldiers to Washington, D.C., where a tour of the city and national monuments was the main focus.
“I didn’t know that I was going to be able to go on the trip at first,” Ralph said. “When I was told I could go I got really excited. There were some Veterans with us that were as old as 90. It was an enjoyable trip and we had a wonderful day. I was glad to be accepted.”
Leon said the honor and respect shown to all of the veterans while in Washington, D.C., was something he couldn’t have imagined.
“This was a mission of nothing but joy,” Leon said. “There are no words in my vocabulary to express the joy we had on this trip. It was amazing to see how people who want to be free indulged in the freedom we have that a lot of other countries don’t have.”
Tourists from around the world were mingling with the soldiers on the Honor Flight trip with many taking the opportunity to speak with and have photos made with the soldiers on hand, Leon said.
“It was like little lightning bugs with so many flashes going off and people taking pictures,” Leon said. “We were asked so questions and had so many people wanting to have their picture made with us. There were people coming up wanting to shake your hand or give you a hug. It was very emotional.”
Both Burnhams said the visit to Arlington National Cemetery was an emotional point in the trip.
“To see the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was very emotional,” Leon said. “Their precise movements and the way they showed honor to us as we watched was wonderful. The guards walk 21 steps each way in front of the tomb and it was a beautiful thing. It’s wonderful to know that we live in a country that will honor those who guard that tomb.”
Ralph said the laying of a wreath was conducted while the Honor Flight group was present.
“They don’t do that every day,” Ralph said. “It was beautiful and we were lucky to be able to see that take place.”
As the two made their way back to Brewton by way of Atlanta and Andalusia, the whirlwind tour registered a sense of pride and honor.
“I was choked up with emotion just about the whole time,” Leon said. “It was an honor to be shown the respect that we were shown during the whole trip. The people we met along the way were respectful and curious about our service. They had they heart, mind and soul together while we were being honored.”
Ralph’s experience gave him a sense of gratitude for being included in the experience.
“I was just glad to be accepted,” Ralph said. “To experience it all was really good. It was just a wonderful day.”
Leon Burnham served as a Marine and in the Air Force during his time in the military. He served during World War II.
Ralph Burnham served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He spent much of his military time in Ft. Benning, Ga., and Ft. Jackson, S.C.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. The network transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill. For details about the Network, visit

Email newsletter signup