WWII vet excited about visiting memorial in D.C.
Posted October 5, 2010 6:16 p.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT
Garner, N.C. — About 100 area World War II veterans will travel to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to visit the World War II Memorial.
The trip is possible because of donations from the community to the Flight of Honor program. The nonprofit group raises money to make sure the aging veterans can see the monument to their service.
Other flights have taken off across the state, but Thursday's group will be the first from the Triangle area. The Triangle Flight of Honor has raised enough money for two flights this fall and one next spring, and the group hopes to add more trips to the list.
Kenneth Erickson, 87, of Garner will be one of the veterans making the trip Thursday. The Minnesota native was 19 when he enlisted in the Marines, and he guided pilots to look for enemy planes in the Marshall Islands.
"The whole object was, by sending up only one plane, he could shoot at anything up there – no friendly fire involved," Erickson said.
The assignment ended in March 1944.
"We got orders to come back to Cherry Point (Marine Corps Air Station). I never got back overseas. I was only overseas six months," he said.
It ended up being a good assignment, as he met a North Carolina girl on a trip to Raleigh.
"My girlfriend and I had a little apartment on Hargett Street in Raleigh, and we went over to the Carolina Hotel (because) it had a soda fountain," Margie Erickson recalled recently. "They came over and talked to us, and three months later, we got married."
Kenneth Erickson said he is excited about the trip to Washington, especially since his oldest son, who fought in Vietnam, will join him. They plan to see both war memorials together, even though war memories are something they have both quietly tucked away.
"Neither one of us talked about it much," he said.
Even though he feels great, he said he knows each day is a blessing for him and all the other veterans.
WRAL News will have live coverage of the Triangle Flight of Honor from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Watch the morning, noon and evening newscasts for complete coverage.