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Triangle nonprofit honors vets with trip to memorials

Posted April 5, 2011
Updated April 7, 2011

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— Veterans of World War II and other wars spent Wednesday in Washington, D.C., visiting the memorials built for their service, thanks to the to the nonprofit group Triangle Flight of Honor.

Among the 100 local veterans being honored were a Pearl Harbor survivor, two Silver Star winners, two veterans of WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars, and a set of three brothers from Johnston County who served in the South Pacific.

They spent the day touring the war memorials and other monuments in D.C.

Local veterans return from Triangle Flight of Honor Local veterans return from Triangle Flight of Honor

Veteran Vernon Hicks, who's in his 90s, said he'd like a trip to the war memorials to teach a 16-year-old friend lessons about his generation's sacrifices and struggles.

"I'd like to step up to him and say, 'Now listen, there's that wall, and those are names on there. They died so that you could have a chance of enjoying life,'" Hicks said. "And when you want to do something, you look back over you shoulder at those guys, and say, 'Is it right, or is it wrong?'"

Bill Bowles remembered being held as a prisoner of war for five months during World War II.

"We'd been in there for all these months, and we hadn't changed clothes, socks, underwear or nothing," Bowles said. "I survived it. I'll be 92 in October."

Charles Irving Jr., of Raleigh, recalled a time of harsh segregation in the Army. Triangle WWII vets reflect on their service Triangle WWII vets reflect on their service

"On one occasion, the Battle of the Bulge, they called for volunteers. That bullet didn't know any color," he said. "But after the Bulge, they went back to their segregated outfits."

Irving said he was honored to serve alongside his brave comrades, both white and black.

"This is my country," he said, adding that he was "overwhelmed" and "speechless" during his first visit to the National WWII Memorial Wednesday. World II veteran Billy Bowles Triangle vets visit WWII memorial

Triangle Flight of Honor raises funds in the community in order to provide the day-long trip at no cost to veterans.

WRAL viewers donated $56,000 this year to help sponsor the flight.

The veterans' trip began with an enthusiastic welcome from current Marines and soldiers and the Patriot Guard Riders of NC at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Their plane took off under a water cannon salute from firefighters.

The U.S. Marines drill team performed for the veterans on the parade grounds of the Marines Barracks.

Upon their return, veterans were greeted with a homecoming celebration in RDU's parking lot atrium. 

"It was fantastic," WWII veteran John Young said. 

Two more Flights of Honor are planned this spring – one on April 19 and another May 4.

23 Comments

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  • superman Apr 8, 2011

    Wonderful story! Makes me so proud to be an American.

  • chapagonzo Apr 7, 2011

    I was honored and felt privileged to be witness to the Honor Flight Ceremony last night. Those veterans more than deserve the homecoming and love they received from family, friends and so many others who just wanted to be part of the experience and Thanks them for their service. God Bless America!!

  • sssh.. whisper Apr 6, 2011

    I love reading the stories about these flights..

    Thank you Soldiers. Your unselfish acts of kindness and bravery is what makes you America's bravest HEROES!

    Prayers to all of our military fighting wars all over the world.

  • ock Apr 6, 2011

    Anyone who is able- Go see these veterans return from their trip. The smiles on their faces is worth any wait you may have to endure. One word of advice: pack a handkerchief; you'll need it!

  • BEACH Apr 6, 2011

    Thanks for all the Vets old and young who have give their time for our freedom. This is a wonderful trip all the Vets going to Washington, wish My Dad could have lived to go, he fought in World War II also. Have a great TRIP VETS YOU DESERVE IT.

  • usmalenurse Apr 6, 2011

    A wonderful event for some very deserving veterans. We all owe them our gratitude and respect for the sacrifices that they made for our country and way of life. They deserve the attention and it is long overdue.

  • this is my Screen Name Apr 6, 2011

    A shame that the good stories that we all beg for get so few comments from the local GOLO'ers. Guess its not scandalous enough... Dark_Horse

    I did write a comment, thanking the vets, my dad, etc., but the moderators aren't posting it. Not sure why they aren't because there was nothing offensive at all. But that may be why there aren't more comments about this wonderful opportunity and event - moderators aren't letting them through.

  • NC Reader Apr 6, 2011

    What a wonderful story! I love to read about our WWII veterans -- and I always get tears in my eyes thinking about how we are losing them every day.

  • u stand corrected Apr 6, 2011

    lakeyk1
    I know what you are saying.

  • phoebelouise Apr 6, 2011

    this is a wonderful event! let's not worry about the number of comments. big waves start with a small ripple. let's carry this positive energy and spirit with us. i was there this morning and you could feel the love, respect and admiration. i can't wait for the homecoming tonight!

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