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George Mendez, 91, Cutler Bay

Military service: Was living in San Antonio, TX. when entered the Army Air Corps at 18. Was a master sergeant in the 146th Infantry, later part of the Strategic Air Command. Served on the USS Enterprise and USS Concord. Most memorable wartime experience: I served as the interpreter for Admiral Richard Byrd, speaking with prime ministers and military high command. Initial reaction to the World War II Memorial: It was incredibly surprising to see how big it was. Three words that describe your Honor Flight trip: Tremendous, observing, overwhelming. Favorite part of your Honor Flight trip: The homecoming, which was overwhelming, gracious and most awesome. Why do you consider WWII an important part of our nation's history, or what lessons did it teach our country? To always be cautious. The Japanese were doing negotiations at the White House while they were attacking Pearl Harbor. Not sure that we still haven't learned the lesson enough that freedom is not free. How did your service shape the person you are today? I appreciate our country more. We recognized were were all Americans during the war. We all served together regardless of race, background and religion. Jim Naskrent/courtesy photo
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