Pat Patterson of Stevensville is about to take the trip of a lifetime. The 96-year old Stevensville resident will board a charter airplane bound for Washington D.C. on September 23. He, along with his companion, Ray Williams also of Stevensville, will land in Washington where they will tour the World War II Memorial and see many of the iconic sights of the capitol.
The trip is sponsored by Big Sky Honor Flight. This organization is a part of the National Honor Flight Network. The organization was formed in 2005 with a mission to recognize American veterans for their service. The flight to Washington D.C. doesn’t cost the veterans anything although companions must pay. The top priority is given to World War II vets and to terminally ill veterans from all wars. The health of the veterans on the flight is not an issue as medical staff is present on the plane. Wheelchairs are provided so the veterans can make the tour around the various memorials.
At 96, Patterson is pretty spry. He broke a hip last year but has recovered and even played some golf this summer. His bright blue eyes twinkle as he talks about golfing and the trip.
“I’ve never been to Washington,” he said.
Patterson was 26 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. He spent most of the war in the South Pacific around Russell Island, about 60 miles north of Guadalcanal. Because he was older than most of the enlisted men, his compatriots called him either ‘the old man’ or ‘pop’. He served as a chaplain, and in the supply depot.
Prior to enlisting, Patterson relates that he worked at the famed Polo Lounge in Hollywood and said he saw lots of stars there. Once out of the service, he returned to Los Angeles and went to work in construction.
His sister worked at Hughes Aircraft and had been writing him letters while he was in the South Pacific. She included letters from one of her co-workers, Frances. Although he never answered any of her letters, the first time he met Frances, he told her she ‘wasn’t going anywhere, we’re going to get married.’
The couple was married for 60 years and raised three daughters and a son. After one of their daughters moved to Stevensville, the Pattersons began spending their vacations here. By the time they moved to the valley in 1997, Patterson knew everyone, according to his daughter Dawn Wakefield.
She and her sister, Patricia Brewer, will accompany her dad to Billings a couple of days before the Honor Flight takes off. Since Patterson says he wants to see all of the memorials, he’ll have a couple of days to rest a bit before the big trip.