Mother and son taking trip to DC in memory of someone who can’t
May 13, 2018, 4:43 PM | Updated: 11:28 pm
PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — For Audrey Kent, some memories never fade.
“I was working at LDS Hospital, and they had a lot of signs saying they needed nurses and doctors,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, I should sign up.'”
That’s how she spent three entire years working as a nurse in a San Francisco operating room, right through the height of World War II — all on her very first trip out of Utah.
“They took care of all the soldiers from the South Pacific that would come in, and we would try to get them as well as possible,” said Kent. “Then we’d put them on a train and take them back east, closer to their homes.”
She met her husband while working at the hospital, which was a bit of a surprise to her family.
“He worked in surgery, same as I did,” Kent said with a smile. ” I just had to send them a letter, to tell them I was getting married. My mother and sisters came out to be at the wedding.”
After the war, her small family began to grow — and Audrey shares a special bond with one of her children.
“These are some of the landing zones,” said Audrey’s son Mike Kent, gesturing to a photo in a small album. “That’s a Huey right there, outside of my door.”
For Audrey, the country eventually came calling again. Mike was sent to Vietnam, where he spent 11 long months serving as a door gunner in a helicopter.
“We did everything,” he said. “We inserted the troops, we resupplied them, did reconaissance for them, took them their mail, their meals — you name it, we did it.”
But Mike wasn’t the only one of Audrey’s sons who served in Vietnam. Doug Kent enlisted six months before Mike was drafted. Doug was stationed at a base, repairing helicopters — Mike was supposed to join him.
“You land, you go into a processing center,” Mike said. “I was trying to explain that I was supposed to go be with him, but it took them 11 days to find me. He was killed the same day I got there.”
“They were testing out a helicopter,” said Audrey. Something happened, and it crashed — exploded. Someone came to our door, a service person, and told us he had crashed, and was declared missing in action. And then the next day, we had another man come, and said that it was confirmed that he was killed.”
“The chaplain sent for me, and told me,” Mike said. “I was supposed to have the dangerous job.”
It’s been decades — but they’ve never forgotten that day. Mike still talks about exchanging letters with his brother, and the stack of undelivered mail the family received after his death.
To help remember Doug, Audrey’s made a cross stitch of his section of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They’ve seen pictures, spoken to those who’ve visited, and gone to see traveling replicas — but neither she nor Mike have actually been able to make the trip to see the names on the memorial in person.
But that’s about to change. Mother and son are heading to Washington, DC together, as part of the Utah Honor Flight. The program provides free trips to veterans, to see the memorials built in their honor. Their trip, sponsored by the BYU College of Nursing, is scheduled for next month.
“I’d seen it on television, I was hoping I could participate in it,” Audrey said. “But I never got around to doing anything about it. So Michael’s friend got an application, and we filled it out, and they accepted us.”
“I just want to see all the memorials,” Mike said. “The Unknown Soldier, I want to see that really bad.”
But there’s one thing they both want to see more than anything.
“I want to see my brother’s name on the wall,” Mike said.
Mother and son hope to learn for themselves that their memories aren’t the only place where Doug Kent’s name will never fade.
“Oh, I’m thrilled,” said Audrey. “I’m excited. You know, I feel close to him all the time anyway.”