Frater makes honor flight

Published 9:05 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bob Frater has traveled all over the world during his 20-year career with the Navy and in his retirement.

But one trip that will always stand out for the 88-year-old is the journey he made with Honor Flight last month.

Frater and 100 other World War II veterans from the Birmingham area traveled to Washington, D.C. on July 29 to see the monument built in their honor. The non-profit flies veterans, free-of-charge, to D.C. to see the memories and monuments to service men and women.

The Clanton resident said the experience, especially being greeted at Baltimore Washington International Airport, was emotional.

“Everybody was clapping and saying thank you,” Frater said, getting a little misty eyed. “When you think about it, it’s enough to make you damn near cry.”

Frater joined the Navy in 1939, soon after graduating high school in a little town in Washington State near the Canadian border.

“Things weren’t looking too good those days. It was hard to find work,” said Frater, whose World War I veteran father encouraged him to enlist. “My dad said, ‘Why don’t you join the Navy?’”

Frater learned how to be an aircraft mechanic in San Diego before being transferred to Pensacola, Fla. During the war, he flew on planes looking for enemy submarines in the Gulf of Mexico.

During the 1950s, Frater worked from the African nation of Morocco on the Mediterranean Sea. While stationed there, he traveled on missions through Africa, Europe and the Middle East, including Italy, Switzerland, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey.

Frater retired from the Navy in 1960 and married his wife of 42 years, Betty, in 1967. The couple met in Dothan while he was working for Hayes Aircraft as a flight test engineer. They have one daughter, Donna Hall, and two grandchildren, Mary Beth and Laura.

Frater encourages all veterans to apply for the Honor Flight trip.

“It was really something. There was so much love and affection,” Frater said. “They took good care of us. Every veteran should go.”

For more information about Honor Flight, visit or call (205) 714-3156.