For 68 years, Korean Conflict veteran James “Jim” Dumbauld of Jackson, Mich., never received thanks for his service in the U.S. Army, which included active combat. However, he never expected or sought thanks for his service. Jim never joined a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) nor desired to talk about his military service. That all changed - within a six-month period – when Jim joined Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 in Grand Haven, Mich., and participated in the Michigan Talons Out Honor Flight program. What inspired Jim to join The American Legion and sign up for the Honor Flight? It began on Feb. 17, 2018 when Jim – along with his wife Joanne, daughter Tina Comperchio, and granddaughter Kyra Comperchio – attended the Post 28 event, “Honoring Our WWII Military Heroes.” The event featured a lasagna dinner sponsored by Olive Garden, and screening of the acclaimed documentary, “A Salute to Honor,” featuring three West Michigan WWII veterans, of which two – Virgil Westdale and Tony Gianunzio - were honorary guests at the event. Before the screening of the documentary, past Post 28 Commander Dave “Mack” Mackellar conducted a heart-warming pinning ceremony for veterans in attendance who served on active duty during American Legion eligibility eras. “This [pinning ceremony],” said Dumbauld, “was the first time I had ever been acknowledged and thanked publicly for my service and among fellow veterans.” The support and camaraderie at Post 28 impacted Jim in such a positive way that he – along with his daughter (Post 28 Auxiliary) and granddaughter (Post 28 Juniors) – joined Post 28.
Jim learned about the Michigan Talons Out Honor Flight program while reading the local newspaper and felt the program could – in some way – enhance the support and camaraderie he felt after attending the February 2018 Post 28 dinner and documentary screening event. He would soon learn that the program would do that and more. After contacting Talons Out in the spring of 2018, Jim received and completed the application. His acceptance letter arrived in the mail in August 2018. On Sept. 15, 2018, Jim and his grandson Nathan LeFere (serving as Jim’s Honor Flight Guardian) joined fellow veterans and Honor Flight Guardians on a mission they would never forget. The morning began with a Talons Out welcome and thank you by local high school athletes and cheerleaders, veterans, local officials including the Kalamazoo chief of police and U.S. Congressman Fred Upton. After boarding the plane to Washington, D.C., Honor Flight veterans received a fire truck water salute -- while taxiing toward the runway -- by the Kalamazoo Fire Department. Once the plane landed in D.C., veterans were greeted at the airport with hand-held American flags and a band performing patriotic songs. After boarding tour buses, the Honor Flight veterans received a police escort to various national monuments and sites including the WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War memorials. A visit to Arlington Cemetery with a Changing of the Guard rounded out the Honor Flight visit.
Upon their return to Kalamazoo, Honor Flight veterans were greeted with a surprise “welcome-home” by their families at the airport. “The Talons Out Honor Flight experience brought back a lot of memories, and the support -- and thanks -- for our service by the public was overwhelming,” Dumbauld said while reflecting on the experience. “It’s been challenging at times coping with the bad memories,” he noted. “But because of Grand Haven American Legion Post 28 and the Talons Out Honor Flight experiences, I am able to re-connect with my sense of pride and honor in serving my country with fellow veterans” Dumbauld added. Jim Dumbauld’s story is a positive reminder of the important role local Legion posts serve in creating welcoming and supportive environments for all veterans, their families, and all Legionnaires and Family Unit members.