WASHINGTON, D.C. (KLTV) - Last week, 37 World War II veterans were able to take a free trip to Washington D.C. as a part of Brookshire's Hero Flight. They went mainly to see the World War II Memorial, but there were other stops that meant a great deal, too. That was the case at the Marine Memorial for Longview's Dave Whatley.
Whatley was only in the Marine Corps for three years, but those years were marked by some of the biggest events in World War II. On his first trip to Washington, looking at the Marine Corps War Memorial, the emotions were pretty strong.
"It's hard," he said.
The Marine Memorial is also called the Iwo Jima Memorial because it is based on the famous photo taken at that battle. The people who died there had an effect on Whatley's career.
"Well, I replaced people that were killed there," he said. "We were reserve, floating reserve waiting to go in for that, and they didn't need us, so they sent us to Guam to replace all those boys that were killed on Iwo Jima."
Whatley was shipped over late in the war, and actually had to train a woman to take his job in the states before he left. After Iwo Jima, he was almost sent into combat, but the most devastating moment of the war prevented it.
"They dropped the atomic bomb before we had to invade Japan," said Whatley. "They sent me to China, and I spent the rest of the war there in China, in Peking."
Whatley knows how lucky he was to miss some of the fighting that he missed. He still considers himself lucky to be standing here in the nation's capitol.
"I think it's a great honor to be among the group that came here because there's a whole lot of people that sacrificed to make this possible," he said.
He is especially proud to call himself a United States Marine.
"It represents what the Marine Corps stands for: the honor and service," he said.