Veteran honors late brother-in-law

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JEFFERSON CITY - Ralph Beach is a 75 year old Korean War veteran who is still serving his fellow veterans.

Beach focuses on raising money so other veterans can go on Central Missouri Honor Flights like he did.

Beach went on the 50th Central Missouri Honor Flight in November of 2017.

Central Missouri Honor Flight takes veterans to Washington D.C to visit the memorials that are dedicated to their service for free.

At first, Beach did not think he deserved to go on an honor flight.

“I didn’t particularly want to go yet because I didn’t feel like I deserved it,” Beach said.

Beach served in radio relay for 13 months in Korea, he felt that he did not deserve to go since he did not see combat.

“We hear that alot, I dont deserve to go, or I didn't leave the states or whatever,” Honor Flight President Mary Paulsell said.

After hearing from other veterans about their honor flight experiences, Beach decided to give it a try.

"I am terribly glad that I went," Beach said.

Honor flights start with all 110 veterans and 35 volunteers on the flight being bussed to a charter plane in St. Louis at 2:00 a.m.

Once they land in D.C. the group gets a police escort tour of the city, followed by visiting the World War II memorial, the changing of the guard at Arlington, Iwo Jima memorial, Vietnam memorial and Korean War memorial.

At the end of the day everyone loads back onto the plane to head back home.

On the drive home from St. Louis more than 500 motorcycles meet the busses at the exit to Kingdom City and escort them the rest of the way back to Columbia.

Once the veterans are back in Columbia they are welcomed by hundreds of friends and family.

“It’s a very long day for them but in many ways they become far more invigorated by it,” Paulsell said.

Beach was certainly invigorated by his experience.

"It's a heart wrenching, eye-opening experience that I would like for every veteran of eligibility, Vietnam, Korean and World War II Veterans to go," Beach said.

Beach truly did want every veteran to go, even his brother-in-law, David Ashley, who passed away in 2011.

"David couldn't go, so he went with me," Beach said.

Ashley was diagnosed with Parkinson's, his doctors said it was more than likely from his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

"I took his picture, I took his obituary, I took his biography. I carried it in my pocket the whole trip," Beach said.

Beach took pictures with Ashley's picture at every monument he went to that day, including the Vietnam War monument that honored Ashley for his service.

Once he got back, he gave all the pictures he had taken with Ashley's picture to Ashley's wife, Nancy.

"I was unaware he had taken the trip basically to honor David Ashley.  It was after Ralph got back, he shared with me what he had done," Nancy Ashley said.

"We cried for awhile, and she added it to the other medals he had gotten," Beach said. "That's what the trip meant to me, I took my brother-in-law with me."

After making sure his brother-in-law got his flight, Beach now wants to get as many veterans as possible on an honor flight.

"I was kind of thinking that I have not done quite enough and I want to help all I can," Beach said.

Beach's goal is to raise enough money to get five or seven veterans to go each year.

Sending one veteran is a little more than $300.

Beach also tries to convince every veteran he sees to go and carries applications around in his pockets so he is always ready.

"I don't force anything on anybody and it's just something I feel good about doing," he said.