Chilly breezes and the bluest of skies greeted a group of 24 veterans who had gathered at Hunter Army Airfield for a long bus ride to Washington, D.C., for this spring’s Honor Flight Savannah.
Among those veterans who had gathered in Savannah on that morning in early May was Roy Anderson of Hazlehurst.
Anderson, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who is president of the Jeff Davis County Veterans Association, had applied for a spot on the Honor Flight in 2011. At the time, he didn’t think it would take seven years to be called to take the historic journey to Washington. Only a last-minute cancellation made the trip a reality for him.
“It is the trip of a lifetime for veterans,” he said. “It is quite an honor, as veterans can take only one Honor Flight in their lifetime.”
The Honor Flight is a nonprofit charitable organization that transports America’s veterans to Washington to visit the memorials and monuments built and dedicated to them to honor their sacrifices in past wars. Among Anderson’s group were veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm.
Says Anderson of the sojourn, “During the trip, I was able to meet several dignitaries, but I especially enjoyed a photo opportunity with General Glenn M. Walters, the Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps. That was a very special moment among many special moments.”
The public send-off from Hunter Army Airfield was warm and exciting, with hundreds of members of the military from all branches of service, including the Coast Guard, saluting the veterans as they made their walk of honor to the bus. Reporters from several Savannah television stations and newspapers were also on hand for the event.
Among the sites in Washington that the veterans visited were the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Vets Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial that is also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. They also witnessed Arlington National Cemetery’s Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The experience includes not only the tours of the memorials built in honor of the veterans, but also a special dinner on the second night of their stay in Washington.
Retired Navy Lt. Larry Spears of Baxley, who is founder and coordinator of Honor Flight Savannah, explains that most Honor Flight programs allow the veterans to fly to Washington for the one-day event, but his group travels by bus for a three-day event to give them more time to get to know one another and see the sights without being rushed.
Each veteran is assigned a guardian to take care of him on the trip to make sure everything flows smoothly and take care of any issues that might arise. Travis Kinard, a registered nurse from Walterboro, S.C., accompanied Anderson on the journey.
The Honor Flight is funded through private donations and affords the veterans the trip at no cost to them.