By Spc. Rochelle Krueger, 3rd Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsMay 29, 2012
FORT STEWART, Ga. (May 29, 2012) -- Twenty-one Veterans from WWII and the Korean Conflict came together May 18, at the 165th Airlift Wing, part of the Air National Guard in Savannah, Ga., to travel to Washington, D.C., to view the monuments that were created on behalf of their heroic actions.
The event is called Honor Flight, which exists all around the United States for the sole purpose of providing the opportunity to visit these memorials at no cost to the Veteran. Honor Flight is funded by private and corporate donations they raise each year.
"We make ourselves known in the community by going to various civic organizations," said retired Air Force colonel, Ed Wexler, vice president of the Board of Directors of Honor Flight. "No donation is too small or too great for our effort."
The Veterans do not go alone to Washington, D.C. They are accompanied by a group of volunteers who are trained and pay their own way, who are called Guardians. The Guardian teams always have at least one doctor and nurse on staff who volunteers their time to make sure all the veterans are safe and comfortable.
"I do it because there aren't many World War Two vets around, and it's a special sight to see when the vets get to see memorials built for them," said Catherine Hopkins, a nurse Guardian for the second time with Honor Flight Savannah. "If you study the history of World War Two you can learn some, but you can learn more if you listen to the Veterans. By listening to them, you learn to appreciate that at one time freedom was not always free."
The Honor Flight Savannah gathered about an hour before their bus left to visit and tell their stories to other Soldiers. Each military branch had people come and speak with the Veterans while they were waiting for the bus.
The Marine Aircraft Group-31 out of Beaufort, S.C., Sea Cadets, Armstrong University's ROTC, Air National Guard personnel, and Soldiers from the 110th Transportation Company, 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Third Infantry Division, were the groups of currently active duty service members who bid the Veterans farewell on their trip to Washington, D.C.
"These gentlemen can give you more history than you can read in any history book because they were there and have seen it happen first hand," said 1st Sgt. Ryan Lyons, the first sergeant 110th Transportation Company, 260th QM Bn., 3rd Sustainment Bde., 3rd ID. "This is a wonderful thing that they're doing and they will keep on doing it until there are no more veterans. It's a great opportunity to mingle and talk with the veterans and show our appreciation for what they have sacrificed."
The Honor Flight Savannah team made it back safely on May 20 in the early morning. All of the Veterans enjoyed their time visiting the monuments.
"I enjoyed the Arlington Cemetery because I lost three of my friends in the Korean Conflict and it meant a lot to me to be able to see it and gave me back the memories of my friends," said Joseph Austin, Army Veteran from the Korean Conflict . "I'm very thankful for Honor Flight because it gives guys like me a chance to see the capitol and I wouldn't ordinarily see it."