honor light guardianPhoto: Ken Springer and Glenn Cashion

MIDDLETOWN – For Ken Springer, it was an honor well deserved. For Glenn Cashion, it was an honor that humbled him when he was asked to assist.

     Springer was one of the nearly 200 World War II, Korean and Vietnam  veterans who took advantage of the South Jersey Honor Flight invitation to visit Washington, DC.  Suffering from numerous veteran associated disabilities, Springer asked his longtime friend, Glenn Cashion of Middletown to serve as his guardian on the trip.

   Honor Flight, which was cited by President Trump in his Fourth of July message to America,  is a national non-profit organization designed specifically to give veterans a trip to Washington to visit memorials dedicated to their service and to give some kind of closure to their sacrifice. Since its founding in  2005, the organization has treated nearly a quarter of a million veterans to the day long honors, festivities, accolades and memories.

     Springer and Cashion are both members of the Phillip A. Reynolds Detachment #203 of the Marine Corps League located in Freehold. That organization, as well as a bridge on Route 9, is dedicated to the memory of a Marine who lost his life in Korea and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

   Springer joined the officer candidate program for Marine Corps in 1962 while attending St. John’s University where he earned a degree in management and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the USMC Reserves. He was assigned to the 2nd Marine Corps Division at Quantico, Va.  For three years, he served as an air traffic control officer, at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, SC,  and schooling at Air Traffic Control School in Georgia. He was deployed  13 months to command and manage a detachment of enlisted Marines responsible for around the clock operational air traffic coverage within the control towers, radar facilities and all expeditionary equipment housed at the Iwakuni Air Station in Japan. That duty included temporary assignments in 1967 and 1968 in Danang, Vietnam. He returned to Cherry Point, NC, before his discharge in 1968. Springer achieved the rank of Captain in the Reserves and was awarded the National Defense Medal.  He is on a 100 per cent service-connected disability for a combination of disabling conditions associated with herbicide (Agent Orange) exposure.

honor flight veteran

  Springer and Cashion were among the 170 veterans and their guardians who participated in this year’s trip. The Middletown resident, a Marine Corps veteran himself,  said the honors for his  friend began at Williamstown High School where a kick-off breakfast was held as veterans gathered to board the five buses for the trip.  The entire student body, more than 1000 students, lined up in the halls of the high school with flags and banners as the veterans and guardians boarded the buses to Washington. Enroute, the busses were met by a police escort who accompanied them for the entire day. Cashion said, “it was inspiring to see cars pulling off to the side of the road to let the busses pass.”                                               

   During the day long trip to Washington, the veterans visited the Korean, World War II and Vietnam memorials, as well as the Marine Corps monument, and had lunch at the Air Force Memorial before boarding the busses for the return trip to Monmouth County.,

    But the honors did not stop there. Once back, in New Jersey, the busses were met by local police and a motorcycle group for a parade to Williamstown High School in South Jersey, with police officers saluting as the busses passed blocked off side streets.  At the school,  the group was again met by enthusiastic high school students and residents eager to show their respect for veterans.  The Williamstown Fire Department erected a huge flag on their ladder truck, hundreds of students were cheering the veterans, bands were playing, honor students were saluting us, and “it just kept on and on,” Cashion said, “and ended with a welcome home dinner at the school.”

    The Middletown resident said he picked Springer up at 3 a.m.. for the trip, they arrived back in Middletown just before midnight, and “it was a long day, but one that I will never forget.”

  Springer has three children and eight grandchildren all of whom live in the Monmouth County and New York areas.