by Lisa Bicknell, CVT Editor
Estill County native and 95 year-old veteran Donald Moreland was one of eighty veterans from across the state who were treated to an “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C. in late October.
Moreland’s daughter, Judy Green, said that her dad told her they were “treated like kings.”
“We enjoyed that,” he said in an interview on Friday afternoon. He was surprised at how many graves there were at Arlington. “They were everywhere! Every little hill and valley.”
He was also amazed by the Vietnam War memorial featuring the statutes that look so lifelike.
“Our (one-day) trip felt like a week,” he said. “The people that did that [organize the trip] are real good people,” he said.
Although he’s traveled a lot of places in his lifetime, it was his first trip to the nation’s capital.
He can walk but not for long distances, so his son-in-law Gordon pushed him in a wheelchair “for about 2 miles” around Washington.
“I had it made,” Moreland laughed.
Three busloads of veterans and their companions departed from Louisville early in the morning, then they arrived back just before 10 p.m. that night.
Moreland said the most exciting part was when they got back. They were waiting on a wheelchair, and when they brought him one, “and there was about twenty of us,” they took off and turned a corner, where about 1000 people were “hollering and thanking us and carrying on.”
“It really made you feel like you was something,” he said.
Moreland was one of eight brothers and he had one sister. Their parents were Elijah Preston Moreland and Mamie Wiseman Moreland.
They lived at Sweet Lick and worked as sharecroppers for Dr. Wallace, operating a dairy farm there. Moreland recalls that there was a barn where the nursing home is now.
“There was five of us brothers who served,” said Moreland. Three in World War II, and two in Korea.
His oldest brother Franklin served in German, Euie served in Italy, Daniel served in Japan and Daniel and Charlie served in Korea.
He remembers that when duty called, he had to take a bus to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where he was outfitted with uniforms and shoes.
Homesickness was “a normal thing for everyone.”
“We didn’t think we’d ever be going home,” said Moreland, “but we had a praying momma and a praying daddy.”
Moreland was in the Army for about 16 or 17 months. His duties were driving a truck, hauling fuel, and being a security guard on the docks and big ships.
He was about to be sent to the south Pacific and already had his head shaved and was ready “to get on the boat,” when they got word that the A-bomb had been dropped and the enemy had surrendered.
Donald and his siblings all made it home from the wars, but he said they never did did talk much about their experiences when they got together.
When Moreland returned after his time in the service, he worked a couple of summers for KU. Eventually he was offered a full-time job, but he was told he’d have to move to Lebanon, Ky. He agreed to do that, and he later worked in Campbellsville, Richmond and Mount Vernon, where he lives now.
He was married before he left for the service at the tender age of 18.
He remembers when he met his wife for the first time. He was driving an old John Deere tractor and passed two sisters who were walking to work at Carhartt.
He asked one of them, Leora Horn, if she wanted to go to church with him, and she said she’d have to ask her mom.
Her mom eventually agreed, and they rode in an old GMC milk truck to church at White Oak.
“That was our first date,” he said.
After they got married, they moved to Plum Street in Irvine. He began his service to the Army, and he came home on leave for a few days to find that his wife was in the hospital, having just given birth to twin girls, Brenda and Linda.
They eventually had another daughter, Judy, and they had one son, Ray, who was killed in an automobile accident on a Memorial Day weekend many years ago. He was a passenger in the back seat of the car that was hit by another vehicle.
His wife has been gone for 11 years now.
Moreland has many special memories of when he lived in Irvine. He remembers tending crops in the river bottoms and driving a horse and wagon through Irvine with a load of hay.
He also remembers a time when his daddy sent him out to plow corn with a horse. Donald took a break and went to the river to cool off, then he heard a train coming and realized that the train would probably scare the horse. He began to run toward her, but he was too late. She took off and ran into the second train car and was killed.
He recalls how everyone went to town on Saturday nights, and they’d park along the street (if they could find a good parking spot) and sit on their vehicles. They would whistle at the girls as they walked by, and “if the girls liked it, they’d walk by again.”
He also remembers being present at the dedication of the green Irvine bridge, and how “everyone in Estill County was there” and walking back and forth on the new bridge.
One acquaintance of his had had too much to drink and kept saying he was going to be the first to jump off the bridge.
“He kept saying that, but he never did.” Eventually the police were able to coax him down.
At 95 years old, Moreland is still active. His mind is clear and sharp, and he hears well for his age. He doesn’t drive anymore because he has macular degeneration, but he still mows his yard and raises a little garden.