Thank You World War II Veterans
On September 21, Southeastern North Carolina Honor Flights took 106 WWII Veterans to Washington DC for the day to visit the WWII Memorial and others. The flight left from the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern and is the third such flight from New Bern. A total of 322 WWII Veterans have been taken to DC from the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport. The trips are free for all WWII Veterans. Each trip costs about $60,000 and the money is raised through donations from many individuals and organizations.
I was fortunate to be selected as a Guardian for three Veterans on this flight, and Kevin Reed, Planning Director, was one of the major planners for the trip and also made the trip to DC. Emerald Isle WWII Veterans on the flight were Ben Licko, Warren Baker, Herman Boyd, and Carl Custer. I was Guardian for Ben Licko from Emerald Isle; and Art Marske, and George Ritchie, both from Cape Carteret.
The day started for most of us about 4:30 am since we needed to be at the airport by 6:30 am for check-in and boarding. The plane took off a little after 8 am and we got to Dulles a little after 9 am where we were welcomed by a Washington DC Honor Flight Welcoming Committee. These Honor Flight Welcomers not only made the Veterans welcome, but guided us through the airport to buses waiting out front.
Our first stop was at the WWII Memorial where we were led into the WWII Memorial by Bagpipers, and greeted by Senators Burr and Hagen, and Representative Jones. The elected officials expressed their appreciation for the Veteran’s service during WWII and spent a lot of time talking to the Veterans individually and as a group.
The Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial are close to each other and we visited them next. Then we visited the Arlington Cemetery, Air Force Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. All of the Veterans visited the WWII Memorial, but some stayed on the bus for some of the other memorials. With the day starting at 4 am, some of the Veterans were feeling tired by the time we got to the afternoon memorials.
About 4 pm, we headed back to Dulles Airport for the flight home. Check-in and boarding went very smooth. However, we were then notified that the plane was too heavy to land at Coastal Carolina Regional Airport under the current weather conditions. There was a lot of scrambling to arrange to land at another airport and get bus transportation to Coastal Carolina Regional Airport. Arrangements were finally made to land at Cherry Point Marine Corp Air Station with transportation provided by private individuals, church buses, and Marine Corp to get us back to New Bern. We got back to New Bern about 2 am which made it a really long day for most of us since our day started about 4:30 am the previous day.
Because of the flight delay, the Veterans were not able to experience the large welcome that had been planned for them at the airport. Many friends, family, and appreciative citizens had gathered at the airport to welcome the Veterans home and thank them for their service. For the first two flights, the Welcome Home Celebration at the airport was one of the highlights. It is a shame they missed that, but all thought it was a great day anyway. Another highlight of the trip was “Mail Call” on the flight home. Friends and family of each Veteran sent “Welcome Home Letters” which were delivered to each Veteran on the return flight.
Thank you WWII Veterans for your tremendous service to our country, and your patience on your flight home.
I thought you might enjoy the following written by Kaylee M. Gargett, 6th Grade.
Emerald Isle – A Piece of Heaven
Emerald Isle is a majestic beach front complex.
Some of the best moments of my life were spent there.
As you climb the stairs, crisp ocean air surrounds you.
Excitement grows inside you when you step onto the warm, fine sand.
Seagulls swarm the sky screeching like hungry vultures.
Opa and I dash into the numbing ocean water as waves crash and mists spray.
The sun surrounds me like a towel, while I lay drying on the beach.
Nanny and I search the wet shore for seashells, cold water nipping at our ankles.
Emerald Isle memories come to visit often.
Now I get to visit this place of perfect harmony.