Flight to Nation’s Capital Honors World War II Veterans
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2009 When an “honor flight” from Long Island, N.Y., lands here tomorrow with 31 mostly World War II veterans aboard, it’s likely to be met in the same manner as others before it: with much applause and fanfare.
Dr. Jack Griffeth, left, served as a medial guardian on the May 4, 2009, ‘honor flight’ for veterans from Atlanta. World War II veteran William Glavic, right, who also participated in that flight, survived the sinking of the USS Yorktown during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of The Honor Flight Network
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit group that transports World War II survivors and other veterans who may be terminally ill to the nation’s capital to visit and reflect at their memorials. Hundreds of veterans have taken advantage of the opportunity to visit the national memorials at no cost.
“The reason I’m involved in this is to make a difference, and I feel that we are,” said retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Haney, whose book, “Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counter-terrorist Unit,” was the basis for the hit TV series “The Unit.”
Haney also is a spokesman for Theragenics Corp., a partner with the Honor Flight Network for this year’s honor flights. On behalf of the corporation, Haney said, he hopes to educate the veterans about the risk of prostate cancer and available treatments.
“We’ve helped make it possible for hundreds of veterans who would never have gone to D.C. to take a trip to their memorial,” he said. “So many of them tell me it’s an experience they will never forget, [and] many say it was the best day they’ve had in a long time. I’m grateful to give back to them. On a larger scale, we’re helping to spread a message that is so important but rarely discussed: men’s health.”
The Long Island veterans will begin their one-day excursion around 10:30 a.m. and wrap it up around 8 p.m. In between, they’ll visit the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial, more commonly referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
The experience understandably is an emotional one for the veterans, but it also has an impact on the relatives and guardians who accompany each flight.
“The trip allowed me conversation time with men and women who became remarkable heroes by their response to duty,” said Dr. Jack Griffeth, who served as a medical guardian aboard an Honor Flight from Atlanta earlier this year, in his blog on the tohonortocure.com Web site.
“I conversed with men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, leaped from the sinking [USS] Yorktown, saw the flag raised on Iwo Jima, liberated the prisoners from Japanese and German prisons … [and] took on shrapnel and continued to fight,” he said.
Griffeth said the veterans often told their stories through tears, and occasionally with enthusiasm and excitement. The doctor said he was only too enthused to relay all he’d learned when he encountered groups of students who had volunteered to assist the veterans.
“I went up to several groups … exclaiming, ‘Remember reading about Pearl Harbor? This guy was at the airfield during the attack! This guy was on the Yorktown when it was torpedoed and sank! Remember reading about D-Day? This guy was on Omaha Beach,’” he wrote. “‘These old guys you are pushing in wheelchairs saved the world!’”
The kids truly seemed to get it, he said.
So, as the plane lands tomorrow and the veterans make their rounds, a new generation has a chance to learn about The Greatest Generation from the men and women who earned that moniker.
The Honor Flight Network has four more flights planned this year.