KEMAH — Cliff Currin Sr. and Andy Ferguson are related in more ways than one.
Ferguson is married to the mother of Currin’s daughter-in-law. But Currin, 92, and Ferguson, 89, are also brothers from the Greatest Generations, having both served during World War II.
Their connection goes a bit further. The two are scheduled to be among the 25 World War II vets to be part of the first Honor Flight Houston trip to visit the World War II memorial in Washington.
The Honor Flight program sponsors all-expense-paid trips for World War II veterans to visit the nation’s capital and, in particular, the World War II Memorial that opened in 2004. The memorial honors the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the 405,399 Americans who died during the war.
Edd Harshbarger founded the Houston chapter of Honor Flight and is working to take the first group to Washington in the spring.
Harshbarger, an Air Force veteran, founded the Houston group after having helped his brother on an Honor Flight from Virginia.
A Conroe-based Honor Flight program took five trips to D.C., but decided not to continue.
“I started talking to people and explained that we were the fourth largest city in the nation and didn’t have a program,” Harshbarger said. “We became an official hub in May.”
The Honor Flight Houston program provides the service for vets from Harris, Galveston, Montgomery, Liberty, Chambers, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Waller counties. Since starting the program, 51 vets have signed up, Harshbarger said.
Currin and Ferguson were among the first to sign up.
Among the others to sign up is a veteran who served at Pearl Harbor on the day the Japanese attacked.
“These are special people,” Harshbarger said. “I didn’t ever have boots on the ground, but talking to these guys and I could never imagine what these guys went through.”
Currin was part of the Army’s Chemical Warfare unit and deployed to the European Theater. But since the Army wasn’t using chemical weapons, Currin’s unit manned mortar units.
The North Carolina native used his skill to set up the mortar attacks used during the Battle the Bulge.
Currin saw plenty of action and even took some shrapnel, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart — an award that he turned down.
“That wasn’t something you should get a medal for,” he said. “I wasn’t disabled. That (medal) should go to people who are disabled.”
Then again Currin always saw things a bit different.
“I wasn’t drafted,” he said. “I was young and idealistic, so I enlisted. I love my country and saw the threat Hitler posed and thought we needed to stand up to him and stop him.”
Ferguson was drafted early in the war and was a member of the 384th Field Artillery Battalion of the 103rd Infantry Division. He saw action in France, Germany and northern Italy during the war.
He was destined for deployment to Japan after the war ended in Europe.
‘Then V-J Day came along, so I never went,” he said.
As well traveled as both men are, the trip to Washington is one they look forward to the most.
“Most of us haven’t had the opportunity to see it,” Ferguson said of the World War II memorial. “In my mind, it should have been the first war memorial built, not the last.
“We deserve to see that honor.”
Agreed, said Currin.
“It will be a great experience,” he said. “It was great that (the country) put our names on that memorial and recognize what we did.”
It costs about $1,000 per veteran to furnish the flight, room and board and meals for the short trip to Washington. Honor Flights also cover the expenses of “guardians,” people who volunteer to help get the World War II vets — many in their 80s or 90s — to and from the destinations.
That’s why the group will be at the Kemah Boardwalk this weekend as part of Kemah’s annual Salute to Military Service weekend.
The group will be taking donations in hopes of raising the dollars needed to get that first flight off the ground.
“I’m wanting to do this as soon as we can,” Harshbarger said. “We keep losing members of this generation and there just isn’t time to wait.”
At a glance
WHAT: Kemah Salute to Military Service
WHEN: Today and Saturday
WHERE: Kemah Boardwalk, Kipp Avenue in Kemah.
DISCOUNTS: Current or retired military personnel get 25 percent off retail and 50 percent off ride tickets at the Boardwalk.
MORE ONLINE: To find out how to register or donate to Honor Flight Houston, go to galvnews.com.
9 a.m.: Military exhibits on display
11:30 a.m. to noon: Buffalo Soldier Re-enactment
Noon to 8 p.m.: Red Tail Squadron RISE Above Exhibit (Lot A). Viewings every 30 minutes throughout the day.
Noon to 8 p.m.: Laser Shot Interactive Exhibit (in front of Lighthouse Buffet)
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.: 36th ID U.S. Army Band (Palapa Stage)
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Houston Texans Cheerleaders Meet & Greet (Lot A)
1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Buffalo Soldier Re-enactment
4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: New Recruit Joint Swear-In Ceremony. Speakers are Maj. Gen. Allen W. Batschelet and Maj. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells
5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: national anthem and patriotic selections
5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.: All Veterans Parachute Jump Team
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Southern Freedom Band (Palapa Stage)
6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: Sheila Marshall Band
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Military exhibits on display
1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Buffalo Soldier Re-enactment