Our World War II veterans are special. They persevered against tenacious enemies during some very difficult times in our nation’s history. They stood by this nation through the horrors of many battlefields all over this world.
Many repeatedly faced death but never stopped doing their duty to protect their fellow soldiers and ultimately all of us who have come to live in this great country since.
These veterans came from all ethnic groups and both genders. When I read history books or watch a movie about that generation, I see young people who risked everything to make a better world. Some came home afterwards, but many did not. Honoring this service is an obligation of us all.
I recently learned of a program providing World War II veterans an opportunity to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
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I have no first-hand knowledge of this program since I have not participated in it as a volunteer, but I do have a family friend and veteran who will visit Washington soon thanks to the efforts of this group.
Honoring these heroes is a wonderful goal. Many of them cannot afford or are not in the physical condition to make a trip like this to Washington. The Honor Flight Network (www.honorflight.org) helps make such visits possible.
This network began in Ohio when Earl Morse, a physician assistant and private pilot, realized that his patients who were World War II veterans were unable to visit the World War II memorial dedicated to their service.
He flew a veteran to Washington and escorted him around the city in December 2004.
Next, he went to a local flying club and convinced several people with private pilot licenses to fly more veterans to Washington.
This idea grew into more and more people flying veterans free of charge to Washington for a day trip to visit “their” memorial.
Now, a combination of commercial and charter flights transport the veterans and escorts. Buses carry the veterans to the Washington memorial sites. Volunteers accompany the veterans to help them, since many have physical ailments that make getting around very hard.
These volunteers have to pay their way through the Honor Flight Network, but the veterans do not have to pay for the trip.
Donations keep the program alive.
Based on the Web site numbers, the Honor Flight Network has transported over 17,000 veterans free of charge to visit Washington. The annual total grew from 137 veterans transported in 2005 to 11,137 in 2008.
The group hopes to transport 25,000 veterans in 2009. There are 71 hub cities in 30 states with a goal to expand to all 50 states. By visiting the Web site, you can go to the Programs tab and find the hub cities in each state. Schedules vary by hub.
Providing World War II veterans this opportunity to visit the memorial in Washington was a great idea.
I’m sure many of these veterans would never have the opportunity to see the World War II memorial without such help.
Honoring the sacrifices made by the World War II generation is important while they are still with us.
John M. House is a retired Army colonel who lives in Midland, Ga. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.