Kingman WWII vet joins Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
KINGMAN - Charlie Hupp had one foot on the boat and one foot in boot camp when President Harry Truman made the call to drop the bomb on Japan, ending a war that was fought by America's "Greatest Generation."
Does he have any regrets about not going overseas and dodging bullets?
"Absolutely not," the 91-year-old World War II veteran said on the patio of his Kingman home, where he lives with his wife of 63 years, Toni.
"I never got out of the country. Instead of sending me over to get killed like my two best friends in the Battle of the Bulge, they kept us in our schooling and we went to boot camp. They were killing off second lieutenants. They put us in schools to maybe last eight minutes instead of six minutes."
Hupp, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942-45, recently returned from a trip with 28 fellow World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., sponsored by Honor Flight Southern Nevada. They visited all the war memorials, including their own, toured the Pentagon and witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The three-day trip from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to Baltimore-Washington International Airport cost about $1,200, including airfare, hotel accommodations and food, and was paid for completely by Honor Flight.
What Hupp took away mostly from the three-day trip was restored faith in America's younger generations.
"It reaffirmed my faith in people in the United States," he said. "Some of them understand that the idea of preserving liberty is really important."
Volunteer "guardians" made the trip to Washington at their own expense and assisted veterans in every way possible, helping them off the bus and pushing them around in wheelchairs. That also impressed Hupp.
"I'm 91 and wobbly, but probably not as wobbly as others," he said. "Those guardians are a special breed of people. One lady could hardly walk, and she had a guardian in front and one in back. She couldn't possibly have done it without their help. Traveling across the country is not easy for these people."
Belinda Morse, executive director of Honor Flight Southern Nevada, said Hupp was chosen because he served in World War II and was physically able to make the flight.
World War II veteran Abraham Eutsey of Golden Valley also made the trip, along with Korean War veterans who don't need a wheelchair.
"Our focus is on World War II, the Greatest Generation that is worried that they have been forgotten," Morse said. "Before they go on the trip, they tell us that they feel like what they fought for is being lost and that the younger generations do not care any more."
Veterans are welcomed and thanked by young and old at every memorial, Morse said.
They're cheered by hundreds of people who come to the airport and show their respects.
"It was really something," Hupp said. "We must have had 300 people lining the aisles and cheering us as we got off the plane. We had a police escort. We were treated like royalty before the Magna Carta."
With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the police escort zipped the veterans through rush-hour traffic at 60 mph from Baltimore to Washington.
"Personally, I didn't think we deserved all that. I saw a sign that said, 'If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.' We could be marching in goose steps," Hupp said.
A familiar face and voice at Mohave Republican Forum meetings, Hupp is a strong proponent of spending on military defense. He asked a handsomely dressed guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier if he felt his future was jeopardized by cutbacks to the military budget, and the young man answered affirmatively, Hupp said.
"They don't know if the military is going to be funded. To me, that's sad. The main job of the government is to keep us safe," he said. "Some of the things we're doing today are downright moronic. There's 23,000 pages in the IRS code. (Republican presidential candidate) Carly Fiorini is right. She said three pages is enough."
The sad part of going to Washington was seeing office building after office building, six stories high, and wondering what everyone was doing in those offices, Hupp said.
"Figuring out how to raise your taxes. That's why we've got $18 trillion of debt," he said. "We've got 50 million people on food stamps. They say we need a safety net. We had a safety net when I was a young man. Your family, the Masons, the Elks, churches, neighbors ... it wasn't the federal government."
Honor Flight, founded in 2005, has 142 hubs nationwide, including Northern Arizona (Prescott), Southern Arizona (Tucson) and Southern Nevada (Las Vegas). The Arizona hubs have flown more than 1,000 veterans to Washington since 2009.
Morse of Honor Flight Southern Nevada said the organization sponsors two flights a year in April and October, and raises money during the six months between flights.
"Our program does its best to acknowledge the sacrifices our military service members have made throughout our nation's history, and are a central part to why America is what it is," she said.
Hupp, born in 1924 in Parkersburg, W. Va., was studying at University of Illinois when he joined the Marine Corps.
He was transferred to Purdue University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering, and went to Officer's Training School to earn his commission.
His favorite president is Ronald Reagan, who laid out war strategy in four words: "We win, they lose."
Hupp taught at Iowa State College and met his wife in Illinois, where he worked for Texas Instruments. They've lived in Kingman for 15 years.