It was as she was placing the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that Dorothy Sleigh was hit with the full enormity of the moment.
“It was very humbling. Very humbling. It made me feel really good to be able to do that… It was very moving for me.”
Dorothy is a resident of Living Court Assisted Living Community in Enumclaw, WA. Earlier this month she spent three days in and around Washington D.C. visiting 10 different memorials as part of Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that allows veterans to travel to the memorials free of charge to pay tribute to their service.
She was in the Air Force and worked as a secretary overseas during the Korean War.
“I was stationed in Europe right outside of Paris in Versailles, which was the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe,” she said. “I did secretarial work for an air force general, a British wing commander, a French army colonel, and an Italian navy commander. Wonderful people, I can’t say enough about them.”
The trip brought back a lifetime’s worth of memories to Dorothy, particularly visiting the FDR Memorial.
“I can remember him talking on the radio when he was president and it’s very moving to go through that…I think the thing that I liked was so many of his favorite talks, or parts of his talks or sayings, were all inscribed on the wall. So it was a chance to reread everything.”
Dorothy was accompanied on the trip by Dana Wilcox, the Community Relations Director for Living Court. It was a meaningful experience for her to be by Dorothy’s side through each of the memorials.
“Being able to watch Dorothy lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, like she said, it was very humbling. It really made me stop and think about how lucky we all are,” said Wilcox. “To be able to walk in the United States every day and do what we do because of these people that have served our country. I was able to take that back and share that experience with my children firsthand. It wasn’t just me talking about something in a book.”
Dorothy’s time in the service also helped her gain perspective on her own life. She was raised in Enumclaw, and before dispatching overseas began dating the man who would later become her husband, Deryl. He would also serve his country in the military but tried to talk her out of going, but she would have none of it.
“I said, no, I’ll always be sorry if I don’t go. I said, ‘If it’s meant to be, you’ll be here when I get back.’ So we did correspond the whole time and it paid off,” Dorothy said. “I looked the world over for a better man and I couldn’t find one.”
After she and her husband returned to Enumclaw they became prominent members of the community – Dorothy was honored earlier this year for her time as being the first woman to serve as president of Enumclaw’s Chamber of Commerce.
Since returning from her Honor Flight, Dorothy has been reminiscing about that time in her life.
“It really brought memories back of the people that I served with. In fact, since I’ve been home, I’ve been kind of going through some of my stuff, looking over where I’d been and what I’ve done,” she said. “It was a very moving, intense three days, but very enjoyable.”
All photos courtesy Ted Alger.