Local WWII Veterinarian Purple Heart Recipient Gets ‘Dream Flight’

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John Haynes, a farm boy from Madison, first tried to join the Marines at the age of 13 during the height of World War II.

He was turned down, but two years later Haynes, 15, walked into a recruiting office in Jacksonville and rigged his date of birth on the papers to say he was 18.

“I just had this burning desire to serve,” Haynes said. He was accepted and sent to training camp.

Since then, the 91-year-old has devoted his entire life to service and the military – fighting in the Asian Pacific and China during World War II, the Korean War and touring Vietnam twice.

John Haynes and his pilot taxi to the runway in a Boeing Stearman biplane on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Haynes, a veteran, benefited from this experience through the non-profit organization Dream Flight.

After 30 years in the Marines, he retired in 1975 as a major with a Purple Heart and a heavy string of other medals on his chest.

On Saturday Haynes lived the experience of a lifetime – a Dream flight.

The nonprofit is run by volunteers and takes veterans to the skies aboard a Boeing Stearman biplane, an aircraft once used as a military trainer in the 1930s and 1940s.

Haynes’ flight is part of Dream Flight’s “Operation September”, a two-month campaign landing in over 3,000 cities to fly 1,000 WWII veterans.

John Haynes returns from his flight over Tallahassee in a Boeing Stearman biplane on Saturday, September 18, 2021. The veteran benefited from this experience through the non-profit organization Dream Flight.

“The flight on the plane was wonderful,” said Haynes. It “reminded me of my days in Vietnam where we would take off in a helicopter. You get that rush of adrenaline.”

After his stint in the Marines, Haynes earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He then spent 18 years working for the US Navy, including 15 as director of the Cape Canaveral Underwater Testing Center before being diagnosed with prostate cancer and retiring.

Haynes continues to serve, serving as President Emeritus of the Florida Veterans Foundation and volunteering as a Veterans Duty Officer. It helps veterans receive their benefits from Veterans Affairs.

“I would do it again,” Haynes said of his time in the Marines. “I could never have dreamed of a better career.”

Contact Tori Lynn Schneider at [email protected] or on Twitter @photoriphy. Check out her photos on Instagram @phototori_.

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