John Butz is an Atascadero favorite
NORTH COUNTY — Atascadero wouldn’t be the same without John Butz and his wife, Barbie. The two have become staples in the North County, and at the beginning of October, 90-year-old Butz, who is a Korean War veteran, was able to go on an Honor Flight with four of his family members, including all three of his sons.
Butz, along with his sons, Doug, David, and Daniel, and daughter-in-law Michele, left on Monday, Oct. 2, for his Honor Flight, where veterans explore war memorials on the East Coast. Honor Flight Central Coast California is the local nonprofit organization that takes veterans from Southern Monterey County through Ventura County on all-expense paid trips to visit the Washington, D.C., memorials honoring veterans’ military service. The Honor Flight was a charter plane full of veterans from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and every single military branch was represented — and it was a new trip attendance record.
“There were about 100 veterans. Only nine from Korea because we’re getting older, as you know,” stated Butz.
Butz stated that out of every amazing thing the group got to do, his favorite was when he and his sons were able to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together.
“We watched the complete Change of the Guard, which is absolutely awesome. The weather was beautiful, with not much humidity, which I was amazed about. That ceremony there was overlooking the Capitol,” said Butz. “The most awesome thing was after the Changing of the Guard, they had a ceremony that changes the wreath of the day. They picked out four Korean War veterans, and I was one of them to walk up and to be right in front of the wreath stand. They brought out the wreath of the day, and there was a short, quick ceremony before the wreath placement. The four guards, who will be Korean War veterans, were able to be handed that wreath and then place that wreath on the holder. And then the ceremony is a flag salute and playing taps for that exchange and then return to our area.”
He added that he discovered he would be part of the ceremony about five minutes before it started.
During the trip, the Butzes, as well as the rest of the Honor Flight crew, were taken to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Veterans Memorial, and the Current Veterans Memorial. To finish off the trip, on Wednesday morning, they headed to the Naval Training Station, Annapolis, just in time for the flag-raising ceremony.
While on the trip, Butz’s oldest son, Doug, was his guardian, and David and Daniel also helped two of the other Korean War vets while on the flight.
“We were known as the Butz Group, if you will,” Butz said with a gleam in his eye.
Butz added that he encourages every veteran to take an Honor Flight if possible.
“Everything we did, everything we saw was just, I mean, some of it’s just hard to describe,” he said. “It’s so awesome when you think about the history of this country and how lucky we are.”
The Honor Flight returned on Wednesday, Oct. 4, to hundreds of people, including Vandenberg Space Force Base soldiers, chanting “Welcome home” and waving American flags, thanking them for their service.
You can find the rest of Butz’s story in the November issue of Atascadero News Magazine.
Feature Image: John Butz (left) is shown with the other eight Korean War Veterans on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Butz family.