La Cañada Flintridge’s Robert Akers Martin, a 91-year-old World War II veteran, was among those honored last weekend by Honor Flight Southland, a nonprofit volunteer organization that arranged a trip to Washington, D.C., for him and 34 other military veterans from the Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
For three months at the age of 19, Martin was a Marine machine gunner during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He published a book about the experience, “Remembering Okinawa,” which he dedicated to “my buddies who never came back.” The memoir, published in 2015, is based on a small booklet in which he recorded coded notes during the campaign.
As he toured monuments last weekend, Martin, a longtime teacher, was accompanied by his son, Michael — and surprised by his daughters, Michelle and Katie. His children all grew up in LCF, where Robert has lived since 1965.
He and the rest of the group — which included only one woman, a Navy veteran, and a pair of World War II veterans, both older than Martin — also enjoyed a pair of special dinners and VIP treatment over the course of the three-day journey, which ended when the group arrived back in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.
“It was an incredible adventure,” said Martin, a past president of the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada, of which he’s been a member for 25 years. “It was very emotional, and just incredible. A wonderful experience.”
Many members of the local Kiwanis Club — as well as other characters in Martin’s life — wrote him heartfelt letters that were delivered to him and the other veterans during their flight to Washington, D.C.
“People were seriously saying, ‘Thank you,’” Martin said. “They wrote really thoughtful, beautiful letters.”
According to its website, Honor Flight Southland has been honoring senior veterans since 2014, transporting World War II survivors and others to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the country’s memorials.
— Mirjam Swanson