MARION (WSIL) — Early Tuesday morning, 85 veterans took off on Veteran Airport’s fifth Honor Flight.
On that plane are three brothers making the memorable trip together.
"I just started the ball rolling and said, ‘Let me call my other brothers, and we’ll just go from there,’" explained Charles Fairbanks.
"I hadn’t thought too much about it, and he sounded all enthused about it, so I said I need to take a trip anyway," added Artie Fairbanks. And when big brother Jim agreed, the trio was set.
The Fairbanks brothers grew up in Johnston City, and Jim, 86, still calls the town home. He quit high school in 1949 when he was 17.
"Right after football season was over, I was done. I quit and went and joined the Army," said Jim Fairbanks.
Like many others at the time, Jim’s journey took him to Korea. He arrived soon after the war started in 1950. A year later, a local tragedy brought him home. His father was among the 119 men killed in the 1951 Orient Mine disaster in West Frankfort. While back home, Jim remembers his mom pulling out the letters he had sent her from Korea.
"You couldn’t talk about the weather, where you were at, what you were doing, or none of that. That was stuff that was cut out. And she’d sit down and read those letters, and when she’d come to a part that was cut out, she’d ask me what was in there, and sometimes I remembered what was cut out, and sometimes I didn’t want to remember what was cut out."
Artie, who’s two years younger than Jim, also joined the Army. He was stationed in Colorado and Germany.
"I went to Fort Carson after basic, and we started training trainees, trained them for about a year, then we took the last batch over to Germany with us."
Charles, who’s 82, went a different direction, joining the Marines in 1956. He served in Hawaii as an aviation mechanic until 1959 then re-joined in 1961 because of the Cuban Missile Crisis, never knowing if he’d be going into combat.
"And one time they sounded the alarms. We didn’t know what was going on, we just knew we were going to take off."
It turned out to be just a drill.
After their time in the military, all three brothers worked a variety of jobs, with Jim and Charles staying in southern Illinois, while Artie moved to Chicago, then to Arizona.
They’re looking forward to traveling to Washington D.C. together to see the military monuments and Arlington for the first time.
"We just get to visit all of the heroes that didn’t make it back," said Artie Fairbanks.