SAN DIEGO — A California World War II veteran is giving back to Honor Flight San Diego in the best way he knows how.
Dick Erickson's is the gift that keeps giving to Honor Flight San Diego. With a smile on his face, you would never know that the man behind the drill is 96 years old.
"I feel maybe 70. I'll admit to that," said Erickson.
Erickson is a Navy veteran. He's working hard making challenge coin holders for the veterans participating in Honor Flight San Diego. Challenge coins have been a military tradition for more than a century.
"It changed my life completely. I'm down here every day working and prior to that, I was just kinda drifting."
He was drifting after his wife of 69 years passed away. The World War II veteran applied for Honor Flight San Diego and in 2021, the nonprofit took him to see the memorial honoring the war he served in.
Erickson dropped out of high school to enlist in 1944. He first served in the North Atlantic, then was transferred to the Pacific on a tank landing ship to help the U.S. get ready to invade Japan.
"We were in San Diego dry dock adding more 20-millimeter guns to the LST for the invasion of Japan and we then went to San Francisco to finish outfitting our LST for the invasion, and then the war was over on Japan on August 15, 1945," said Erickson.
"Immediately, our mission went from an invasion to a humanitarian," he added.
On his way home from his trip, he designed the first challenge coin holder.
"On the back of a napkin, I drew this little sketch which is this block right here," he said.
He says he will keep giving back to Honor Flight San Diego.
"Well, as long as I'm still able to get down to the shop, I'm going to be here. I know I'm 96, but I'm going to keep doing this," he said.
He's already working on the challenge coin holders for the Honor Flight scheduled for April.
This article was written by Ciara Encinas for KGTV.