WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twice
in his life Arden Leo Swiger Sr. has
been called up: once in service to
his country in the Korean War and
once to commemorate that enlistment
— this time with a coveted
seat on an Honor Flight trip.
brought Swiger, an
Elkins native, full
circle. In May, he departed
D.C., one of 90 veterans
to fly out of the
North Central West Virginia Airport.
His beloved wife, Ethel, had
seen coverage of a previous Honor
Flight and wanted to learn more.
Not knowing what to expect,
they applied to the program
through Honor Flight Huntington
and Swiger was accepted. Formed
in 2013, the state hub works with
veterans in West Virginia, Kentucky
and Ohio who were in
World War II, Korea or Vietnam
to help them see memorials in the
nation’s capital dedicated to their
To date, more than 500 veterans
have gone on one of five charted
flights to D.C., with three planes
departing from Huntington and
two from Bridgeport, said Jane Julian,
the hub director for Honor
Swiger, at age 83, is proud of his
service, but he is quick to qualify
his time in the military. Though he
was drafted, Swiger said he never
“I served in the Army from Oct.
27, 1953, to Oct. 25, 1955, during
the final days of the Korean War,”
he recalled. “I served in the 216th
Prior to being drafted, Swiger
was the captain of the Elkins High
School basketball team in 1951,
something that still elicits a smile
when he talks about those years,
which he does so fondly. He then
studied for two years at Davis &
Elkins College before military duty
Swiger’s family has a long history
of serving this country. His
great-great grandfather, Christopher,
fought during the Revolutionary
“It was in 1775, the year of the
Army’s birthday but later that
year,” Swiger explained of when
his great-great grandfather
joined the fight for this nation’s
He also said his grandfather,
Elias, fought for the Union during
the Civil War.
“He was wounded at some point
and was with the 3rd West Virginia
Calvary. It must have been near
the end, but I’m not sure how he
was injured or in what battle, just
that he was in a hospital at Washington,
D.C., when the war ended,”
That rich lineage, linked with
our country’s major formative
battles, is something of which
Swiger is very proud. He is a
charter member of the newly
forming Sons of the American
Revolution Tygart Valley Chapter
in Elkins, Randolph County.
Group Registrar Raymond M.
Kane was able to link Swiger’s
past with his present.
He presented Swiger with an
SAR military service medal the day
of the Honor Flight. It was something
that came to fruition after
Ethel Swiger made Kane aware of
her husband’s service record.
“I went to the Honor Flight that
morning around 6 a.m.,” Kane said
of the presentation, which included
a mini medal and one of regular
size along with a certificate.
an award that’s available to any of
the SAR who have served in the
military — either just regular military
service or through another
medal for those who have served in
a war theater.”
Swiger said even though he
never saw combat, he enjoyed hearing
stories from fellow Honor
Flight passengers who did. The day
from start to finish was one big
hero’s welcome, he said.
The airport was packed at
both takeoff and landing with
those wanting to show their support
for the veterans. Motorcycles
lined the area, and at
landing, Swiger said quite a display
was on the runway.
During the plane ride, Swiger
said the veterans experienced a
special mail call. Family members,
school children and others
wrote letters or cards of thanks.
“That really touched me,
touched all of us. Everyone had a
full packet and we read some of
them together,” he said. “They,
all the veterans, were all really
appreciative of the Honor Flight
and proud to be selected to go.
Then, everything that happened
to us all day, the crowds, bands
everywhere we went. And at one
point I could see a man on the
upper deck of a bus. He stood at
attention and saluted us all the
way by. It touched you.”
That is what he remembers
most. Though Swiger enjoyed
getting to see the various monuments
the group visited, such as
the World War II and Korean
War memorials as well as the
Vietnam Wall, Washington
Monument and other sights, it
was the reception at each that
“People were cheering for
us,” he explained. “It was all
positive. There wasn’t one bad
thing that happened or unkind
word that was said to us all day.”
Given the strenuous nature of
the daylong excursion and the
sheer volume of stops packed in
to the day, every veteran who attends
an Honor Flight outing is
assigned a helper, Swiger said.
His was Dave Morgan from
Ohio, who volunteered his time
to make Swiger’s experience
“I am so grateful and thankful,”
Swiger said, clearly still
moved more than two months
after his flight. “I’ll never forget
It’s a legacy he will leave his
own family. Swiger and Ethel
have three sons: Arden Leo Jr.;
Alan and his wife, Debbie, as
well as their daughter, Mackenzie;
and Mark and his wife,
Dawn, and their two children,
Mandi and Shane.
Julian said Honor Flight
Huntington is working hard to
ensure veterans such as Swiger
have the opportunity to feel
“We want to get the word out
to all WWII, Korean and Vietnam
veterans about our program.
Our mission will not be considered
complete until every veteran
who is well and able to make this
one-day trip has gotten that opportunity,”
Julian said. “We are
hopeful to have another flight out
of Clarksburg next spring.”
Those who are interested in
learning more about the Honor
Flight or who would like to donate
may contact Julian at 740-
451-0615, 740-645-5692 or
More information also is available
online at www.honorflighthuntington.
Arden Swigers writes:
Our morning started at 6 am at the North Central Airport Bridgeport with veterans (World War 2 and Korea) meeting with their escorts for breakfast. There was a good sized crowd seeing us off and thanking us for our service before we departed for Reagan National Airport in DC.
Our arrival in Washington was met by a huge flag waving crowd with a band playing patriotic songs cheering us and shaking our hands and thanking us for service to our country. The feeling was so overwhelming that it?s hard to explain but it?s not what you see from the news media! It was about 8:30 am as we loaded on our 3 buses in DC with Honor Flight Huntington WV written on the front. We left with our police escort leading the way to visit the memorials. The police escorted us the entire day. People along the route were waving and clapping their hands while some were saluting.
There?s no way for me to put into words the feelings and emotions that went through me in the nearly 12 hours that we spent in DC this beautiful sunny day in our nations capitol. I probably shook more hands on this one day than I have in my 83 years on this planet and I don?t believe there was one that belonged to a politician!!!
When we got back at the Reagan Airport, getting ready to leave for home, one of the female airport personnel yelled out to the crowd ?All you West By God Virginians come to gate 4? and we were greeted by a band playing patriotic songs and people were cheering.
On this entire trip we did not see one negative act by anyone!
When we boarded the buses back to the airport, we had ?Mail Call?. (Just like we did in the service) It seems the Honor Flight office had contacted my family in secret and all of them sent cards and letters along with school children who made cards and pictures thanking the Veterans for their service.
When we arrived back at the airport in Bridgeport we were welcome by the largest crowd of the day. As our plane landed there were four fire trucks along the run way with lights flashing. There also was a fire truck on each side of the run way spraying water in an arch over the plane and I jokingly commented "That they were either holding a shower for us or our engine was on fire". When we got off the plane there was this large crowd cheering, waving flags with an Army band playing. The crowd consisted of cub scouts, Rolling Thunder bikers, military, family and friends plus many others.
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For your entainment here is a site from a Kentucky Honor Flight at Reagan Field in DC.
Honor Flight Video