Korean War Memorial

Tom Miller visits the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in April with Honor Flight Southern Arizona. Miller served on the USS Halsey Powell off the coast of Korea during the war.

A community's efforts to send Tom Miller to Washington, D.C., in April left the veteran of "The Forgotten War" feeling anything but forgotten.

The trip was made possible through Honor Flight Southern Arizona, the GVR Tennis Club and friends at Quail Creek. It was a trip he always wanted to take, but the Korean War veteran said he doesn't know if it would have happened without Honor Flight.

Sitting in his Green Valley home, Miller, 88, showed pictures of his trip while his cat, Tiger, nuzzled at his wrist for attention. Miller's wife, Judy, died earlier this year. They married not long after he left the Navy in 1955, and were together 63 years.

In 1951, Miller joined the Navy and served aboard the destroyer USS Halsey Powell. The mission was to move along the coast, providing interdiction fire and rescuing downed pilots. Miller arrived on the Halsey Powell fresh out of training. It was the first time he'd left his hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana.

The Korean War is often referred to as The Forgotten War, landing between World War II and Vietnam. That's not lost on Miller.

"I remember after the war when we got back, we couldn't get our benefits until Congress passed a special law for Korea because it was a police action," he said.

Miller said the Honor Flight meant a great deal to him. It showed that showed people care about him and other veterans.

Serve with a vet

Larry Taylor, a member of the GVR Tennis Club, started an event that helped to raise funds going to Honor Flight to send veterans like Miller to Washington.

Taylor, a 20-year Army veteran, came up with Serve With a Vet while having a beer in his backyard one evening.

The event, held at GVR's West Center, has veterans play tennis against each other and with the public. In its first three years, Serve With a Vet raised $7,000, which all went to Honor Flight. It costs $1,000 to send a veteran on the flight. This year marked the fourth year and proceeds haven't been counted yet. 

With more than 50 people in the crowd Nov. 2, Taylor was emcee, which included a W.C. Fields routine. Following the tennis matches, the veterans walked the court carrying service flags while each military branch's song played.

Taylor's W.C. Fields routine

Larry Taylor goes through a W.C. Fields routine at this year's Serve With a Vet event Nov. 2, at GVR's West Center. 

"For a while, it drives me nuts because I think I have to worry about everything being perfect," Taylor said of the event. "But when we play the service songs and then the national anthem and then 'Taps,' it takes me a while to speak after that. It is so rewarding because everybody does appreciate and feels a part of it."

Miller's experience

Miller, who went on Honor Flight in April, said he is grateful for everyone who made it possible, from friends at Quail Creek, from whom he first learned about the program, to his guardian, Ramon Encinas.

"He was so fantastic and so nice," Miller said. "We had a great time going around and talking with others and getting to know those around us."

Miller and Encinas have developed a friendship since returning from Washington.

Lincoln Memorial

Tom Miller, who served in the Navy from 1951-55, visited Washington in April with 81 veterans. This was his first time visit to the nation's capital. 

Getting to talk with other vets reminded Miller of the camaraderie he experienced while serving in the Navy.

"It was so nice to get the other people we sat with, just to get to know each other, and it helped," he said. "Because sometimes when you're alone and you don't have anyone else around you, just talking with the other people made (a difference). We all were just like a family."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

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