A memorial was held Saturday to honor the man who inspired a program that has flown hundreds of local veterans to see national memorials in Washington D.C.
Arthur Smith was the muse behind Honor Flight San Diego (HFSD). His son, David Smith, created the local chapter of the Honor Flight Network (HFN) as a tribute to his father who served in the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1948.
Arthur Smith passed away at the end of February but his legacy within the county will live on.
“I had bunch of people I knew from service or school that never came back. And I went there and said my prayers. And I got closure,” said Gilbert Nadeau, one of the first veterans to participate in HFSD.
And on Saturday, Nadeau was able to pay his respects to the man behind that trip.
"To all the vets I meet, I say ‘Have you ever been on an honor flight before?’ And I said contact them. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing." Nadeau said.
Arthur Smith and his son went on a trip in 2010 with HFN, which has more than 130 chapters across the nation.
On their return, David Smith told HFN’s national director, “I'd like to volunteer in San Diego for your hub there. He said we don't have one. I said we’re going to have one now."
Now, nine years later, HFSD has flown nearly 1,300 San Diego veterans to the U.S. capital and has its next trip in May, which David Smith assured will be extra special.
HFSD flies World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice, according to its website.
During World War II, Arthur Smith was assigned to the First Provisional Marine Brigade and was part of the U.S. invasion to take back the Island of Guam, according to HFSD. In a Higgins boat, Arthur Smith landed on a beach in Agat, Guam under fire.
When Arthur Smith returned home from combat, he supported youth community theater and YMCA programs and liked to paint.
In lieu of flowers, the Smiths are accepting donations in Arthur Smith’s name for HFSD. Donations can be made on the non-profit’s website.
Arthur Smith will be laid to rest in Michigan.