Marlin Clark's dog tags accompany Doc Gentzler to WWII Memorial
Last month's Honor Flight was an experience that W.R. "Doc' Gentzler won't soon forget.
"It was wonderful. Everything was so well organized that it all clicked with no time to get bored," he continued, "Everywhere we went, we were applauded. The airport reception was very special for us."
Doc had been to Washington, D.C. before, but this was his first time to visit the WWII Memorial and the experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for both he and his son Jerry, who accompanied the 93-year-old Marine veteran.
There was another part to Doc's mission. He carried with him something very important that belonged to another veteran and old friend.
Dog tags belonging to the late Marlin Clark of Augusta made the trip to D.C., as well. Doc left the tags at the memorial in honor of Clark, who served as a Navy corpsman twice for his country - during WWII and Korea.
Being part of an Honor Flight was something that Clark had wanted to do, but bad health and circumstances kept it from happening.
"I had always wanted Marlin to go on an Honor Flight. It was important, but he just didn't get there," Clark's wife, Shirley said.
A series of events unfolded that led to placement of the dog tags at the memorial.
With Clark's passing earlier this year, pain and loss is still fresh for Shirley. Sometimes emotions are frayed.
"I miss him every minute. I had been crying and thinking a lot about him when I came across his dog tags. I wasn't even looking for them. I was in the desk for something else and there they were - I didn't even know Marlin had put them there," she explained.
Finding them brought more emotions. Her husband had always been very proud of his service and everyone who knew him was aware of his deep patriotism.
The next day the issue of the Gazette with the article about Doc going on the Honor Flight arrived and upon reading it, Shirley knew immediately that she wanted Marlin's dog tags to go on the flight. She asked her son Bryan if he knew if copies of dog tags could be made, as she didn't want to let go of the originals. Bryan thought of G.I. Rose, a military surplus store in Wichita, but time was tight. Doc was departing for D.C. in just a few days.
"We've known the Gentzlers for 40 plus years, so I called Jerry Gentzler and asked if they'd take the dog tags along and he said that they would be honored to," Bryan said.
The duplicate dog tags were picked up and they were given to the Gentzlers in time to make the Honor Flight.
Shirley's eyes filled with tears when she said softly, "Things just came together. Like it was supposed to happen. It was so amazing. I can't thank the Gentzlers enough."
Jerry Genztler told Bryan that at the WW II Memorial a ceremony was held to honor the spirit and sacrifice made by so many. During the ceremony Doc read the names of area veterans who died before they had the opportunity to see the memorial. They couldn't make the Honor Flight with Doc, but they were there. In spirit.
Marlin Clark's name was read aloud and his dog tags were left at the memorial.
A guard stationed at the memorial assured Doc that no one would bother the dog tags.
Photos, letters, mementos, and other artifacts are left daily at the memorial. The items are stored and taken care of by the National Park Service.
"I know he would be pleased to have his dog tags there," Shirley said, "God had it planned perfectly.