A local veteran recently loaded up his 1952 Army Jeep on a trailer and headed off to Arizona to honor his brother for an early Veterans Day surprise.
Robert H. Sines, public information officer for Homer White Post 66 in Hiawatha, said he recently took a trip to visit his brother Leonard Sines in Arizona. He planned the surprise trip to bring an “Honor Flight” to him, since his brother was unable to take one.
Explaining more, Bob said the local VFW worked to have local veterans join in an Honor Flight in early October. Honor Flights are planned to take veterans to Washington, D.C., for a day filled of activities that include visits to Arlington National Cemetery and other memorials in the area. Bob said he is set to go on the next Honor Flight, along with several other local veterans. It’s a very special trip as a tribute to the service of veterans.
“When informed of this trip, I contacted my brother who was career Army and now living in Surprise, Arizona,” he said. “He served for 20 years on different parts of the globe, but most notably consecutive tours in Vietnam, amounting to a little over four years with the 1st Calvary in a combat zone.”
Bob said he told Leonard of his impending trip and his brother congratulated him. Bob had served in the Army in and around the Vietnam region, assigned to an Air Defense Hawk Missile Battery during the same time frame as his brother.
“Like most, it was a major concern to our family members,” Bob said. “We both lost friends in the Vietnam War and upon returning home there were few celebrations on our behalf.”
Bob proposed that both he and Leonard take part in the same Honor Flight, as he felt his brother’s service far exceeded his own. Capt. Leonard Sines received the Meritorious Service Medal from South Vietnam, two Bronze Stars and a Battle Field Commission from First Sergeant to Second Lieutenant.
“He liked my idea, but at 76 and with an ailing wife, he declined as his duties are at home,” Bob said. “Never a lack of honor for this man. After our conversation, I decided we would take the Honor Flight to him. For a couple of months, the trip and Welcome Home Honor Day was planned, simulating a welcome home these 50 years later!”
Bob said since Leonard was active with his local VFW and American Legion, he drew on the friendships and talents of Post 62 and American Legion Riders in Peoria, Arizona.
“They were all for this Honor Flight that never got off the ground,” he said. “We emulated some of the Honor Flight practices that were first initiated in 2005 and go on today: cheering crowds, saluting veterans recognition of service to our great country and Mail Call — a tradition started on the flight to or from DC.”
He said Mail Call was provided to Honor Flight veterans getting personal letters from home. Many families and friends contributed short letters of memories and admiration.
“To make this event memorable, we felt a surprise would be the best way to express our appreciation,” Bob continued, noting his brother was requested to arrive at the Legion Post at 3 p.m. that day with his war-era motorcycle and sidecar for photos for the following year’s Post 62 calendar.
“He showed up on time and was greeted by a large crowd of family, friends and fellow Legion members, much to his surprise,” Bob said. “After a few minutes a parade of Legion Riders pulled in — led by his brother, yours truly, in a 1952 Army Jeep.”
Bob had been accompanied by his cousin, Dick Sines, on the 2,800 mile round trip to see Leonard and bring the Honor Flight to him. Dick said he heard Leonard say “Hey my brother has a Jeep just like that” and Dick told him “Look again, Len.”
Bob said he spoke with his brother often and shared stories about the Jeep and Leonard said he wanted to see it someday. And then there it was.
“Brotherhood is a strong thing and it applies to not only blood brothers, but to those close to us and those who served with us,” Bob said.
Cpt. Leonard Sines received a plaque and a desktop statue denoting those who did not return home from war. His appreciation was his biggest reward given on that day — Oct. 26, 2018 — just in time for Veterans Day.
“So if you feel a veteran deserves an Honor Flight and can’t go, then give them something that doesn’t get off the ground, but does touch the heart,” Bob said.