BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Aside from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the nation's capital, the veterans on the latest Honor Flight received a special gift from one of their fellow service members.
The Honor Flight is always meant to celebrate and show support for local veterans. But one veteran, Phil Roberts, decided he wanted to do something nice for those he was sharing the trip with.
You may recognize Roberts for the colorful hair that made him stick out on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C, but besides being daring in his personal style, he also brought gifts for all veterans on the flight, that although small, meant a lot for those who received them. He made bead keychains in the colors of the medals usually awarded to veterans for the wars they fought in.
"These represent Vietnam. From green to green, if you turn it sideways that is the medal they were awarded for serving in Vietnam," said Roberts.
For Roberts, a Navy veteran, these bead chains hold a lot of meaning.
"I present them to the veterans because to me they have earned it. So it is a gift for me for their service."
Roberts dedicated 20 years of his life to our country from 1958 to 1978. He was part of the Navy during the Vietnam War and served as an aviation storekeeper. During his time, he was stationed overseas in Guam and Japan. He also had several stateside duty stations, including at the air station in Lemoore and the Moffett Federal Airfield just northwest of San Jose.
About 20 years ago he started making little bead keychains for his fellow servicemen taking over the tradition from a close friend.
"He was still working and I was retired, and he said, ‘you want to take over these beads for me’ and I said sure I need something to do."
Since taking up the mantle, Roberts has given thousands away of keychains to fellow veterans, including those on the latest Honor Flight.
"They were 87 Vietnam veterans that I made the 57-year anniversary keychain for and the 7 Korea vets, the one World War II vet, and I made a special one for 'Rosie the Riveter.'"
Roberts has now expanded to making flags, crosses, and even holiday figures for his loved ones but says there is nothing like the feeling he gets giving them away to veterans.
"Oh my god, I just feel so thankful and elated that I can present something to somebody that has made an impression in the world and they have."
The other veterans on the flight hung their key chains to their jackets or bags and were all appreciative of the gift. Roberts says he just hopes more veterans get to have this experience and join future honor flights.