Honor Flight to give veterans the trip they deserve

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World War II began in 1939 and lasted until 1945, with 16 million Americans serving and more than 400,000 Americans sacrificing their lives.

The National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a tribute to the sacrifice given by those men and women and their families. But that tribute wasn’t completed and open to the public until April 29, 2004, much too late for many of the veterans to see it.

Honor Flight Columbus is a project to help the veterans make the trip to see the monument without the worry of cost or physical disabilities getting in the way.

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“It’s free for the WWII veterans,” said Tom Williams, Lawrence County Veterans Services officer. “It takes them on a free flight to Washington to see the World War II Memorial and some other things. They are trying to get all the veterans there. It makes no difference if they are wheelchair-bound or on breathing machines. They have arrangements.”

The one-day trip begins by flying out of Columbus to Washington, D.C., where Honor Flight volunteers help get everyone loaded onto a motor coach.

They will be given a tour of the World War II Memorial and other landmarks in Washington, D.C. They are provided lunch and dinner and a flight back home, with volunteers assisting with the trip back as well. The trip is of no cost to the World War II veterans, but is funded by donations.

There will be six flights from April through November in 2011, and veterans can fill out applications now to guarantee a spot. Williams has the applications and can be reached at (740) 643-2333.

Williams wants to encourage every veteran who can to make the trip.

“Right now we are losing veterans. We lose about 1,500 a day,” he said. “The veterans are getting older and (Honor Flight) is trying to get as many there while they are alive.”

Williams knows from experience how much it can mean to get an opportunity like this.

“I was a Vietnam veteran, and I know how it felt the first time I went to the Wall in Washington. It tears you up, and I want these guys to get theirs,” Williams said. “They deserve it. I went to Vietnam for a year. These guys went for four or five years and they didn’t get their monument until much too late. They need to go.”