Edwin Aley was a career military man, serving two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then another 18 in the United States Air Force as a meteorologist. He'd tell you that it was an unremarkable stint. He saw no combat, only weather. When he retired from the military, he spent another 20 years teaching middle school math.
But here's the thing: Aley served from 1946 to 1948 and then again from 1951 to 1969. That put him in uniform during the World War II era, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. There are few veterans alive today who can say that, as Aley discovered on his recent Honor Flight.
"I really felt that I did not deserve an Honor Flight until I got on it and I found out that there were people there that had been in less than a year," Aley said. "I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, I guess I do deserve it after all.' Everywhere we went people would come up and shake our hand and thank us for our service."
Aley joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946, after combat operations in World War II had ended but occupying forces remained overseas. He returned unscathed to Topeka and attended Washburn University on the GI Bill. He enrolled in ROTC and earned a 2nd Lieutenant commission in the United States Air Force and by June 1951 was on active duty again.