Living in a city like San Diego, residents are keenly aware of the sacrifice that veterans, present and past, have made and the honor that they deserve. While everyone honors those who serve in their own way, one local non-profit organization makes it their year-round mission. And in October, Honor Flight San Diego chose long-time La Jolla resident John Robinson as an honoree, sending him on a sponsored trip to Washington DC.
Robinson was the oldest of a group of 88 World War II veterans who were chosen to participate in the three-day excursion to the nation’s capital, which was paid for entirely by Honor Flight San Diego. The organization is part of a group of more than 100 other non-profits throughout the U.S., which work to raise private funds to send veterans to Washington to see the various memorials and museums.
For Robinson, who was commissioned there by the U.S. Navy in 1942, the trip was nostalgic and bittersweet.
“My duty was in the naval building, which was then right on Constitution Avenue,” he said. “It’s through that channel that I met my wife to be, Kathy. She was working nearby in the Bureau of Ordinance, and that was the beginning.”
Robinson’s granddaughter, Kelly, accompanied him on the trip and brought him around to some of the places he used to frequent, including where he met his wife. He was also able to visit the widow of a friend whom he had known since 1935.
“Those two things were very special to me,” he said.
Other highlights of the trip included a trip to the Navy yard and the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, all new experiences for Robinson, though he has had the privilege of travelling to Washington several times throughout his life.
“There is always something interesting to see in all of those museums, even though I haven’t been through most of those experiences,” he said. “Being in the military I’m interested in it all. There’s more meaning to veterans who have served during the wars, but I can see how it is interesting to civilians too because it’s a part of history.”
As for Robinson’s military career, he spent nine months in DC before attending Navy Communications School at Harvard University. His naval career then brought him down to Norfolk, Va. where he boarded a merchant ship called the Bald Eagle, which brought him to Pearl Harbor and the USS Prairie. After a 19-month deployment, during which his first son was born, Robinson was afforded a 30-day leave. It was during those 30 days that the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. Rather than return to a ship in the Pacific, Robinson and his family found themselves in San Francisco where he served as a communications officer at the Naval Separation Center. When the war ended, Robinson returned to his home state of Minnesota where he received his law degree from the University of Minnesota.
It wasn’t until 1952 that Robinson found his roots in La Jolla, after being called to duty for the Korean War. He and his wife Kathy purchased a home near the La Jolla Country Club, which is where Robinson still lives today.
“[Kathy] said she saw a house that was only a year old and was for sale. She didn’t think I would like it because it was up a steep hill, but we bought it the next morning,” he said.
It was there that Robinson and his wife raised their three sons, all of whom graduated from La Jolla High School. Today, Robinson is blessed with seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
As for his plans for Veterans Day, Robinson will be participating in the San Diego Veteran’s Day Parade on Monday aboard the Honor Flight San Diego float.
To learn more about Honor Flight San Diego and the work they do for veterans, visit honorflightsandiego.org.