Although Army veteran Seyward McKinney has been to Washington, D.C., a number of times, it was an October Honor Flight trip that means the most to her.
“At the Vietnam Veteran Wall, I witnessed a woman placing a plaque in front of the name of a nurse friend who died in Vietnam. She was one of eight female nurses who died there,” the 38-year-old Salem resident said.
“She told me, ‘We must not forget that women also were in Vietnam.’”
The Honor Flight trip gave McKinney an opportunity to hear the stories of veterans from other wars and conflicts.
After the trip, McKinney said what she wants other people to know is “Remember to honor veterans. We’re still here. The worst thing in life is to be forgotten.”
Glenvar High School 2002 graduate McKinney served in Iraq as a surgical technologist at Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq and is now a medically retired veteran. She had a debilitating stroke in 2009 after returning stateside.
After much therapy, she participates in Wounded Warrior athletic competitions, and has also found healing with the help of horses at Healing Strides horse center in Boones Mill over the last 10 years.
She was featured on the cover and inside the Fall 2022 “Vet Quarterly” published by the Salem Veterans Affairs HCS.
McKinney said Honor Flight activities arranged along the way were kind of a welcome home for Vietnam veterans, most of whom were not recognized when they returned from that unpopular war.
Stops in the Washington area included the Korean War Memorial, World War II Memorial, U.S. Navy Memorial, Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, the new Army Museum at Fort Belvoir, Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and Military Women’s Museum.
It was at the latter where McKinney’s service was recognized with a certificate for her service in Iraq.
“It was unexpected to be honored,” she said.
Of the new Army Museum, she said, “It had tributes from World War II all the way up to my war. That was cool.”
McKinney noted that the last time she was at the Korean War Memorial was in 2011. This time, she was pleased to see names of the fallen had been etched into the wall.
Each veteran on the trip that started and ended at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford County was assigned a “guardian.” McKinney’s was Hannah Jordan, the nurse who placed the plaque at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Jordan, a Marine, also received a certificate at the Military Women’s Museum.
McKinney is an active member of the Fort Lewis Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Members from other DAR chapters provided meals along the way the Honor Flight. Hosts for meals along the way were the Bedford Peaks of Otter DAR Chapter, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Charlottesville.
Police and members of Rolling Thunder motorcycle unit gave the Honor Flight bus a 45-minute escort along the way.
McKinney is the daughter of Ricki and Bill McKinney of Glenvar.