Blustery day can't stop vets from enjoying WWII memorial visit
Posted November 4, 2010 7:17 a.m. EDT
Updated November 4, 2010 9:25 p.m. EDT
Washington — Dozens of World War II veterans from the Triangle withstood a cold, damp day Thursday to visit the memorial in their honor on the National Mall.
The 100 veterans were part of the second Flight of Honor, which took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport at about 8 a.m. and returned just over 12 hours later.
The nonprofit Triangle Flight of Honor provides all-expenses-paid, day-long trips for WWII veterans to see the memorial, which was dedicated in 2004.
WRAL viewers and online visitors donated more than $50,000 to sponsor Thursday's trip, as well as a flight in October.
Before the veterans departed, RDU firefighters provided a water-cannon salute, sending an arch of water over the plane as it taxied to the runway.
In Washington, veterans toured the WWII memorial for an hour in the rain before visiting other war monuments and memorials honoring Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.
Navy veteran Harry Greene survived Japanese suicide pilots ramming their planes into U.S. warships. Twelve of his buddies died in the war, he said.
"(The war in Pacific was) hell, especially Okinawa," Greene said.
He said he was glad to have an opportunity to visit the memorial.
"This is great. This is something I have longed to see," he said. "It means a whole lot. At least someone remembered what the veterans of World War II did."
Raymond Sugg, 87, wore his original Army uniform on the trip.
"I knew I was going to come, but I didn't know when or how," Sugg said as he admired the memorial. "It's very moving. It's pretty, pretty, pretty.
"I'm kind of a representative of the boys that I left behind," he said.
"It's just a way of renewing memories, I guess, of what it was like and to come with all my buddies," said Ed Vause, who fought in Europe.
Sugg said the men he fought with were more than buddies, but he said the word "brother" was strong enough to describe the bond between them.
"You do things for them that you wouldn't do for your brother," he said. "(It was) a brotherhood you just can't imagine."
Flight of Honor organizers say they want as many of the aging veterans – many of whom are ill or on fixed incomes – as possible to see the WWII memorial.
The public was invited to give them a "Hero's Welcome" in the center atrium of the RDU parking deck around 8 p.m.
About 1,500 people greeted the veterans returning from the October trip, and organizers said they hope to double that number for this trip.
Triangle Flight of Honor is organizing another flight for next spring.