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Year's last Flight of Honor lands at RDU

Posted October 26, 2011
Updated October 27, 2011

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— More than 100 World War II veterans from around the Triangle got the chance to visit the national memorial built in their honor in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Flag-bedecked members of Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard gave a hero's welcome to the 102 veterans when they arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Wednesday morning.

The seventh Triangle Flight of Honor – and the last scheduled for this year – took the veterans to D.C. to tour the national WWII, Iwo Jima, Air Force and Marine Corps memorials. They also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery and saw a special silent drill put on by Marines. Triangle Flight of Honor Photos, stories, video: Triangle Flight of Honor

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole spent time with the veterans during the tour.

Among the veterans who went on the trip is John Mims, of Hoke County, who was captured by the Japanese when they attacked the Philippines in December 1941. He survived a forced march and years in a prison camp.

"It was torture," he recalled. Report It logo 640x480 Share your photos of the Flight of Honor

When Mims overheard guards being given orders to kill the prisoners after the Japanese surrendered, he and his fellow POWs took over the prison.

Not all of Mims' experiences in the Philippines, though, were horrific – he met his future wife, Juanita, before the war. She would sneak to the barbed-wire fence of his prison to see him. The two wed after the war and remained married 59 years, until her death.

Mims said his time during the war made him a better person.

"God told me to forgive, and I lost a lot of friends. I've cried so much it's pathetic, but God understood me, I guess, because it was something," Mims said. 

Triangle Flight of Honor raises money to offer the trips at no cost to the veterans.

Hundreds welcomed home the veterans just before 8:30 p.m. at RDU. The North Carolina State University marching band also performed.

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  • mfarmer1 Oct 26, 2011

    World War II veterans are some of our best heroes, I like to hear some of there stories of not only fighting, but also of friendship of there battle buddies.

  • Avenger Oct 26, 2011

    Thank all you guys and gals for your sacrifice! If not for you brave people I would hate to think what this world would be like.

  • Tarheel born Oct 26, 2011

    God's speed on your flight and a safe return. Thank you for your service overseas and at home. You ARE truly the greatest generation on earth.

  • jhrichardson1 Oct 26, 2011

    An amzing sight!! GO TO RDU!! You will be sorry you did not!! Arrive by 730 PM. And free parking!!!

  • UNC1985 Oct 26, 2011

    If you have not attended the welcome home celebration please do!
    Thanks to our heros and their families.

  • vrigg45071 Oct 26, 2011

    My father went on this trip last November and had the time of his life! The "Greatest Generation" indeed: these brave men and women came back from war and took up the threads of their lives because it was what they were supposed to do and they did it! The Flight of Honor is an amazing undertaking and is handled just beautifully. Heroes all!

  • hunter38 Oct 26, 2011

    They deserve this......God bless them all