A restaurant general manager fulfilled his promise to a Waukegan vet by accompanying him on a special mission -- an Honor Flight to see the World War II Memorial in Washington. D.C.
Jesse Jarrett, a Culver's general manager in Zion, became friends with his longtime customer, George Houchin of Waukegan. In August the Daily Herald wrote that the two became such good friends that even restaurant crew members had George's favorite two-piece chicken dinner waiting as soon as they saw him coming.
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But the two men shared a special day when they took a whirlwind flight from Midway International Airport to Washington, D.C. to see the memorial. They arrived at Midway at 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 30, flew to D.C., and then were transported back in time as about 80 vets and their companions visited the memorial.
"It was just unbelievable," Jarrett said.
Houchin became emotional when he saw the part of the memorial that honored D-Day, which he was part of during his stint with the U.S. Navy. Houchin was overcome with emotion again when he returned to Midway about 9:30 p.m. that same night and saw thousands of people welcoming home the vets, including a contingent from Culver's.
The day was possible because Jarrett had encouraged Houchin to participate. Culver's had aimed their philanthropic efforts toward Honor Flight Chicago and had raised money for a flight in July. Since then, Culver's team members got the word out about the Honor Flight, a company spokeswoman said.
Earlier in the year, Jarrett went to Houchin's home to give him paperwork related to the flight and encouraged Houchin to think about it. Houchin told Jarrett he didn't want to relive D-Day and discouraged the idea. But a few days later, he came into the restaurant with his daughter and handed in the completed paperwork, said Jarrett.
And Houchin would only go if Jarrett accompanied him.
"There are just no other words to describe it," said Jarrett. "It was just huge to be able to talk to them and hear their stories and what they did for our freedom."
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