Flight of Honor takes veterans to D.C. memorial

Posted September 13, 2011
Updated September 15, 2011

— Veterans of World War II took a free trip to the memorial in their honor Wednesday, thanks to the nonprofit group Triangle Flight of Honor. It is the fourth such trip this year. Report It logo 640x480 Report It: Send us your Flight of Honor photos

Accompanied by volunteers, 102 veterans, including some who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport amid fanfare around 8 a.m. They spent the day touring the World War II, Air Force and Marine Corps memorials in Washington, D.C. Veterans also stopped at Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

World War II Veteran Jerry Smith, 98, was the oldest veteran making the trip.

“It’s been a wonderful experience. I flew today for the first times since 1943,” Smith said.

Triangle Flight of Honor raises the money to offer the trips at no cost to veterans.  Flight of Honor Triangle Flight of Honor, Sept. 14, 2011

World War II veteran Leon Howell, 89, of Garner, was a sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor on the Day of Infamy.

"(The) ship in back of us was hit by Japanese and never touched us, but the captain said on Tuesday morning, if they'd hit us, we'd have blown sky-high like the Arizona," he said. "To see all these guys that were in the service when I was in service, there's a bunch of them here, and I think it's wonderful."

Seeing the memorial on Wednesday, he said, he couldn't believe how beautiful it was.

"I've been to Washington a lot of times traveling, (but) to see this, it's something. It really is," Howell said. "I think everybody should see it. I really do. It's something to look at."

Veterans return from Flight of Honor Veterans return from Flight of Honor

The public gathered in the atrium of the airport parking garage Wednesday evening to give the veterans a hero's welcome.

“It’s fantastic. I’ve never had an experience like this. It makes you want to cry,” World War II veteran Howard Buchanan said while standing amid the crowd.


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  • emerald7575 Sep 15, 2011

    How many times do we have to honor theses people

  • jhrichardson1 Sep 15, 2011

    Thanks to all who came to RDU last night. Another great night. The last flight is scheduled in October 26 I think but I could be wrong. But hope you will attend to say "thanks" to our vets!!!

  • whyalltheproblems Sep 15, 2011

    Please come out to the next Welcome Home Celebration! It will be October 14th. I have been to the past 4 and each one is beyond memorable. You will leave feeling proud to be an American and so grateful for the sacrifices these men made.

  • ctnorris2011 Sep 15, 2011

    This is so awesome, looking at the pictures it brought tears to my eyes.

  • Wendellcatlover Sep 15, 2011

    I'm so happy for these men and women. They deserve all this honor and more. I just wish my papa had lived long enough to go himself. He died just a few months before the memorial was opened. I went in his place and saw it myself. The memorial IS absolutely beautiful and to see the grown men and women moved to tears was really somthing.

  • Sarge Sep 14, 2011

    some of the REAL heros of this country!

  • mmtlash Sep 14, 2011

    My grandfather was a WW2 vet (he died back in '91) but I still get teary eyed when I see these stories. I definately want to be at the airport one of these times to great the people when they return. It's pretty touching.

  • this is my Screen Name Sep 14, 2011

    Two big events are happening at the airport today. 100 WWII vets from our area are in DC. These men and women deserve a true heroes' treatment. They have done so much for the good of our country by participating in a war to guarantee our freedom and protection. Meanwhile, a man came from DC to Raleigh. He is the President of our country, he is seeking approval of his own agenda, causing traffic delays and disruptions. And done what to help our future? If I chose which flight I went to welcome, it would be the one arriving tonight with people I don't know but I respect, appreciate, admire and give them my gratitude. Thank you to our heroes of the war for all you have done.

  • wp Sep 14, 2011

    If I wasn't sick, I'd go to RDU for their return. I hope I get to next time. Thank you all for your service to your country. The memorial is beautiful and I know you will all enjoy it!

  • hunter38 Sep 14, 2011

    This story should be the headline instead of "you know who" coming to town.