"Makes you humble": WWII vets take honor flight to DC

They are precious few and dearly cherished: the men and women who served in our military during World War II.

Several years ago a non-profit called Honor Flight began a program that offered free trips for World War II veterans to visit their memorial at the nation's capital.

This past Wednesday, a group of 25 vets -- each accompanied by a guardian, who can be either a volunteer, friend, or family member -- took the trip to Washington, D.C.

"People walk up to you and thank you," said 85-year-old Roland Reagan. "It's just overwhelming."

The group made stops at the World War II memorial, the Iwo Jima memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery, among others. They have now lived so long, but during World War II these veterans were barely adults facing down the horrors of war.

Jack King is a 95-year-old veteran of the Navy. But he choked up while looking at the Iwo Jima memorial.

"I feel humble," said King. "This is my first chance that I had to come, and it just breaks me a little bit softly."

Olga Prietula served the Army as a nurse. That made seeing the Arlington tombstones even tougher.

"I think of the waste," Prietula said. "These are all someone's husband, brother, or kid, and it's tough.

"I'm happy to be here, though," she added. "It's beautiful."

The youngest member of the group was 85 years old. The oldest? 101-year-old former commander Lamar Wallace.

"We did what we're supposed to do," reflected Wallace. "And this nation of ours, the United States of America, responded to save the world. They really did. They saved the world."

An experience like this for a veteran is a gracious gesture. But World War Two veterans have become tougher to find.

"The generation is passing away at 1,000 people a day," said David Smith, who runs the Honor Flight Conyers operation. "So it's not going to be long before you're not going to be able to find them."

Smith and the Honor Flight operation continues to seek out World War II veterans to take on these free trips to Washington. If you know of such a veteran, you can contact Smith through the Honor Flight Conyers web site.


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