PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - In his room at the Veterans and Pioneer Home in Palmer, 86-year old Jim Clark prepares for a trip to the nation's capital. Clark and 22 other Alaska vets will take part in an 'Honor Flight' to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to tour war memorials, and to heal old memories.
"We just want to bring as much attention as we can to these guys, to say to them you were heroes then and you're still our heroes, and we haven't forgotten," said Ron Travis, co-founder of Last Frontier Honor Flight.
Clark says he joined the Navy right out of high school in 1949, and the Korean War began a few months later. Clark says something happened during his brief combat tour that is too painful to talk about, even more than 60 years later.
"I had something that happened," Clark said."A guy lost his life, and it should have been me, and I've never got over that."
Clark says the loss of his friend haunted him for years. "You do things in war, you pull triggers on people. You gotta live with that and it took me years to get over it. I went through alcoholism and all kinds of things."
Clark says he will search for the name of his friend who died on the Korean War Memorial. "I think I can go back and get a little more closure than what I have," he said.
"For a lot of them, it's about closure," said Travis. "A lot of them can close the door on a lot of bad memories and stuff, and we see that quite often."
While Clark is proud of his military service, the greatest source of pride for him is his family, which includes six children and close to 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Clark says when he thinks about why his friend died during the war while he didn't, his family reminds him of what has happened in the years since the war.
"I could never figure out the reason I got saved in Korea. The kids say 'Well, because we're it, we're the reason,' and that's true," Clark said.
Tuesday's Honor Flight will be the ninth involving veterans from Alaska.