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WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, former prisoner of war James "Leon" Gray, 90, of Malvern finally got to visit the national memorial recognizing those who fought in World War II.

Gray, who is also a Purple Heart recipient, and his daughter Cyndie Massey were led through the site on the National Mall by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle.

Gray was 19 years old when he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. He spent six months as a German POW. He didn't have much to say on the phone Friday, saying those who really want to know about his trip and experiences in the war could just come ask him.

"It was just bringing back a lot of memories, memories that I had forgot. It has been 70 years now," he said.

Massey said she was filled with pride watching her dad explore the site.

"To see him there at 90, with the senator, there was just no words," she said. "[Cotton] wasn't rushing with anything and didn't make daddy feel rushed with walking around."

Dedicated in 2004, the National World War II Memorial was completed 59 years after the war ended. It sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

Private groups and corporations have rushed to take those who fought in the war, and those who fought to have the memorial built, to see it on "Honor Flights," which treat veterans to a whirlwind day marked by cheering crowds, flag-waving civilians and military members who volunteer their time to welcome the service members.

Gray originally planned to be among the hundreds of Arkansan World War II veterans who journeyed to Washington on the Honor Flights organized by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Tyson Foods in the past six years. The companies ended the flights in May 2014, saying few living Arkansan WWII veterans wanted to come who hadn't made the trip.

"My mother was ill, and there was no way he was leaving her," Massey said. When Gray turned 90 last month, Massey decided it was time to visit the memorial, springing for limo service from Malvern to the Little Rock airport and first-class seats on the flights.

"He has never in his life done anything just for himself," Massey said. The trip "was all about daddy."

Massey had contacted the senator's office about a possible military escort when Cotton, an Army captain who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, jumped at the chance to lead Gray around the memorial himself, his staff said.

2016 race

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee addressed the conservative advocacy group, the Eagle Council in St. Louis on Friday.

BACK IN THE CAPITOL

Arkansas' all-Republican delegation joined their colleagues at the Capitol for a short week after the Labor Day holiday.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock attended the Library of Congress' "Congressional Dialogues on Great Americans: Alexander Hamilton." Writer and biographer Ron Chernow spoke about the founding father. Hill also gave the prayer at the beginning of the Republican Conference meeting Wednesday.

He was scheduled to attend the football game between the University of Arkansas Razorbacks and the University of Toledo Rockets on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs participated in his first "Radio Row" with the House GOP Conference when he gave interviews with several Arkansas radio stations in a row.

A handful of Arkansans visited U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers on Wednesday, including Maxwell Hardwood Flooring Chief Executive Officer Tommy Maxwell of Monticello; Baxley Equipment Co.'s Chris Taylor of Hot Springs; Susan Reehl and Trish Walker, both of Fort Smith; Norma Strabala of Stuttgart; and Ira Kleinman of Hot Springs.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers sent about 90 used books to the Pope County Library System from the Library of Congress Friday.

On Saturday, Womack, a retired Army National Guard colonel, was scheduled to attend the National Guard Association of the U.S. conference in Nashville, Tenn., to receive the association's highest honor, the Harry S. Truman Award. In a news release, the organization referred to Womack as "one [of] the Guard's best friends in Congress."

MOBILE OFFICE

Womack's staff members are scheduled to answer constituent questions at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Pottsville City Hall at 173 E. Ash St.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Contact us at (202) 662-7690 or swire@arkansasonline.com.

SundayMonday on 09/13/2015

Print Headline: Ex-POW visits WWII memorial

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