Robert (Bob) Shillaber and Earl Carlson, residents at Wingate Residences on the East Side, joined the 65 veterans who attended the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight on October 30. Rhode Islanders crowded T.F. Green Airport early Saturday morning to show their appreciation for the first trip since 2019. Bob and his son Stuart, Earl and his wife Susan, and the other veterans and guardians traveled to Washington, D.C, where they toured war memorials and historic monuments, and received cards and letters from friends and family military-style “mail call.”
The two were thrilled to bring their family members on this journey. Bob was honored to share this experience with his son Stuart. “He’s seen all of the pictures and papers, but it was amazing to experience it together,” says Bob. “He’s heard all of the stories, now he gets it.”
Shortly after arriving in Washington, Earl and his wife Susan were surprised by their daughter and son and in law who live in Virginia, making this day even more incredible.
The experience for Bob and Earl brought forth two very different perspectives. Earl, although very appreciative to have been honored, was flooded with memories of those who were unable to attend. He expressed feeling “selfish for being there when so many didn’t even make it home from war.” He appreciated the moments spent honoring those fallen soldiers.
Bob, on the other hand, couldn’t contain his happiness as he reminisced the good times he experienced with his fellow Naval officers. “We had so many good times in Quonset. We’d take our empty wastebaskets and fill them to the top with quahogs after hours because we had access to an area that civilians couldn’t touch,” he recalls. Bob remembers riding an elephant, seeing the first lady, and all of the havoc his and his buddies would wreak on the others.
This 17-hour day could not have been possible without the coordination and incredible organization of George Farrell and the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight organization. We as Wingate, we as Rhode Islanders, and we as caregivers, could not be more grateful of the lengths they went to make our veterans feel as appreciated as they deserve to feel.