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Honor Flight: 100-year-old veteran and author to take a trip of a lifetime

Veterans from the Greatest Generation and the Forgotten War will soon fly to Washington D.C., to visit their memorials.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Veterans from the Greatest Generation and the Forgotten War will soon fly to Washington D.C., to visit the memorials created in their honor. 

Among them will be World War II veteran Winona Ruth Gunther, who currently lives at the La Vida Del Mar Senior Living Complex in Solana Beach.

“I wanted to serve. I came from a very patriotic family,” said Gunther.

Gunther served during WW II as a Pharmacist Mate First Class in the  U.S. Naval WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency), and tended to wounded service members injured in Guadalcanal - many who suffered from Malaria.

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“They were such young kids. I can [still] see them,” said Gunther.

She didn’t fight on the battlefield. At the time women were not allowed, but had battlefield nightmares of her injured brother.

She met her husband while working at the Corona Naval Hospital but waited to marry until after it was over. They were married nearly 49 years. He passed away from lung cancer.

She has written two books, “Papa Said” - about growing up on a farm in Indiana, and “What Would Your Father Say?” - about her service. 

The latest book was titled after something her mother once said.

“I came home from work and I said, ‘mom, I just joined the Navy,’ and she said, ‘My land! Why would you want to do a thing like that? What would your father say?’ My father would have been proud of me,” said Gunther.

It has been 75 years since the war ended, but she is about to go on a trip of a lifetime with Honor Flight San Diego.

The non-profit sends WW II and Korean War veterans to their memorials at the nation’s capital.

“I think it’s the camaraderie when you’re in the service the camaraderie is the thing that, it’s like a big family,” said Gunther.

News 8 flew with a group last spring to share the honor, camaraderie and patriotism.

The trip costs $250,000 a flight, which is not an easy task when its paid by private donations.

Last fall not enough money was raised to send everyone on the waiting list.

Volunteer Stacey Halboth still remembers what a Korean War veteran told her after the trip: “It's a healing he never knew that needed to heal.”

Honor Flight San Diego is having a gala on Saturday March 7 which will help raise money for the 2020 flights. 

Volunteers like Saundra Cima recalls a story from a WW II veteran.

“He said he got to go on Honor Flight, it was the first time he felt like what he had done was appreciated," said Cima. 

The Greatest Generation said the sacrifice they made should never be forgotten.

“Love their country,” said Gunther.

The gala is being held at the Hilton Del Mar. For tickets or donations click here.

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