Next month, about 80 World War II veterans here in Kern County are hoping to get a chance to see the memorial built to in Washington D.C. that honors their sacrifices. The trip costs around 150 thousand dollars for the group and you can help send them there by donating to the Honor Flight fundraiser starting Thursday.
Albert Lomas, 88, can't wait for the day he'll be able to see the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. with his own eyes, just like what 21 local veterans did in May. "I love it. I always wanted to go there but I never had an opportunity," said Lomas.
The next Kern County Honor Flight is in October, this time with 80 World War II veterans, and Lomas gets to go. He was a U.S. Navy Boatswain's Mate, 2nd Class, from 1941 to 1945. At the memorial, he plans to see the name of an old friend who died. "Eddie from Tehachapi. We were pretty close," said Lomas.
Lomas was a part of a prize crew that captured the Japanese ship Tachibana Maru, which was transporting troops in the Banda sea, disguised as a hospital ship. Lomas was aboard the USS Charrette when he volunteered with nine other men to board the ship, unarmed.
"We had to write letters home because they told us that we were going pretty deep into enemy territory and they told us if we see any kind of ship of any kind of plane, they were going to torpedo the ship and we were on our own," said Lomas.
On that ship, they found 16 hundred Japanese soldiers who were healthy and armed.
"They were sleeping on hand grenades, rifles, they had ammunition, they could've done something if they wanted to," said Lomas.
But they didn't. Lomas' crew was joined by armed Marines to search and take over the Japanese ship where they soon flew the U.S. flag.
"Nothing ever happened to us," said Lomas. "We've seen a lot of stuff but we seem to get through it alright. So I say, what the heck, we must be lucky!"
Not many people know of this heroic capture because three days later, on August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
"Boy, this would've been a good story had they not dropped that bomb," said Lomas. "They said, 'you guys would've really been in every newspaper in the country.'"
Decades later, Lomas looks forward to reminiscing in D.C. at the World War II memorial.
"When I got out of the service, and I got married, and had 5 kids, then that ended that trip," Lomas laughed.
His daughter, Mary Arraztoa, encourages people to donate to Honor Flight. "It's a good way to say thank you. You may not get this chance again."
You can help send other World War II vets to see their memorial in D.C. starting Thursday, from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. Honor Flight volunteers will collect donations at the Kern Veterans Memorial downtown on Truxtun and near Chuy's on Rosedale Highway.