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Flight of Honor takes veterans to see WWII memorial

Posted October 7, 2010

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— Nearly 100 local World War II veterans traveled on Thursday to see the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.

The nonprofit Triangle Flight of Honor provided the all-expenses-paid, day-long trip for veterans to see the memorial built in their honor. They also saw the Iwo Jima, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.

WRAL viewers donated more than $50,000 to sponsor the trip and two others.

"They are the reason we are here. The sacrifice they made is the reason we have the freedom we have today," said Thom Dillard, of the Triangle Flight of Honor.

Director Sunny Johnson said these trips give the group – veterans who range in age from 84 to 97 years old and include two women – a sense of closure and a chance to tell their stories.

flight of honor Triangle Flight of Honor

"They're reminiscing, and they're thinking about their troop members that didn't necessarily come home after the war," Johnson said.

A crowd including other veterans and active-duty soldiers, Marines and sailors greeted the veterans as they arrived at a flag-covered entrance at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Thursday morning. People lined up on top of the parking deck to see their flight take off, and RDU firefighters shot a water arch over their plane.

A crowd also waited to greet the veterans in Reagan National Airport in D.C.

Air Force veteran Everette Jones said the send-off contrasted sharply with the welcome he got when he arrived back in Raleigh after serving in the Pacific.

"It means a whole lot," Jones said. "When I came out of the service and was discharged, I came to Raleigh on a bus, and (there was) nobody to greet you or nothing. I hopped the bus and went home."

Veterans reflect at WWII memorial Veterans reflect at WWII memorial

Norma Schrader, of the WWII Navy Volunteer Force, said the trip to the memorial was overwhelming.

"You don't think it's ever going to happen. It's wonderful," Schrader said. "There are fewer and fewer of us now." 

At the Okinawa tribute, former Marine DC Lawson consoled a woman as she grieved for her father.

"He fought a good battle, I tell you that," Lawson said. "It was the toughest we ever fought. Twenty-five thousand Marines (were) killed there. It was a horrendous battle."

Now in their 80s and 90s, the veterans said they felt lucky again to touch a place that honors a war the whole country fought.

"This is a tribute to a great group of men. They fought their hearts out. Nobody gave up. Nobody quit," Lawson said.

The public is invited to welcome the veterans back home later Thursday at a ceremony in the airport's parking garage atrium at 7:30 p.m. The N.C. National Guard Color Guard will salute the veterans, and the Cardinal Gibbons High School marching band will perform.

The Flight of Honor organization has arranged flights for veterans from across North Carolina and the nation to see the WWII memorial. Thursday's flight was the first from the Triangle. Another flight was scheduled for this fall, and another in the spring.

Flight of Honor organizers want as many of the aging veterans – many of whom are ill or on fixed incomes – as possible to see the WWII memorial, which was finished only in 2004.

WRAL News will have live coverage of the Triangle Flight of Honor as it returns to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport from Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Watch the evening newscasts for complete coverage.


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  • pcrain44 Oct 8, 2010

    My father was one of those Veterans honored in Ilinois. Navy pilot on aircraft carriers in WWII and Korean War...752 landings on those carriers (log book in hand) with the stars as your GPS...a soldier with hand signals and flags to advise on the ship elevation in the up and down sea moving ahead at "X" knots per hour...and a slight radio signal for where that ship was located in that mighty ocean less they alert the enemy. What courage!! That Washington trip brought tears to his eyes and I thank you for the honor given.

  • doubletrouble Oct 7, 2010

    This is great! We are losing these heroes at an alarming rate, and it won't be long till all of them are on eternal patrol. They are a generation that will never be forgotten for their service to our country and am proud of each and every one of them. I had 4 uncles who served, one trapped in Bastone, one hit the beach at Omaha, one a tank crewman in Italy, and one in the Pacific. My Dad served in the Navy during WWII. Only the uncle from the Pacific is survived. Hats off to them all!

  • hhurley79 Oct 7, 2010

    To southrnarchitect they also did a flight out of PTI a few months ago, try checking with the VFW or contacting the organization about sending your dad. Good Luck!

  • rgra66 Oct 7, 2010

    Please tell me that they didn't have to strip down for security at the airport!

  • tdouble232323 Oct 7, 2010

    WRAL deleted my comments for calling them out! hahahahaha!

  • tdouble232323 Oct 7, 2010


    Not sure what your gripe was with my comment. I just want to know why WRAL, while covering a story on the WWII Memorial didn't bother to cover it being trashed last weekend? I called them heroes in my post and have WWII vets within my own family. Save the mama lessons for someone else.

  • sssh.. whisper Oct 7, 2010

    This is a great story to read.. I wish I could be at RDU this evening to welcome these HEROES home!

    Keep in prayers the hundreds of other HEROES that are following in these HEROES' footsteps by deploying out.

  • teachyourchildrenwell Oct 7, 2010

    Architect-Why don't you do some fundraising to make it happen?

  • ArmyGF829 Oct 7, 2010

    This is something special for our veterans and glad there's a great organization like this.

    Southrnarchitect, go to the National Flight of Honor website that covers more regions of NC and beyond: http://www.honorflight.org/tour/index.cfm#6

  • southrnarchitect Oct 7, 2010

    Here we go again nonprofit Triangle Flight of Honor. My question is what about the other veterans that cannot make the drive and they or their family cannot afford to fly them and one other person to DC to see these various memorials. My dad served in WWII and the Korean War and would have been thrilled to go to see these memorials - oh I forgot we do not live in the TRIANGLE. He has many awards from WWII this country and others - he is a Master Parachutist with two combat jumps - jumped into France the night before D-Day and was at the Battle of the Bulge plus many other battles throught out Europe. Why did you not consider people in this area and from other parts of NC not just the Triangle - I guess they are not good enough to invite on the Triangle only trip.