South GA Honor Flight prepares for final take off - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South GA Honor Flight prepares for final take off

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May 16, 2008

Valdosta - Honor Flight South Georgia is preparing for its last take off.

In just a year, the program flew more than 300 World War II veterans to their memorial in Washington DC, all on money raised by the community.

The third and final flight takes off Saturday morning but veterans involved say the memories they have will last a lifetime.

Honor Flight Co-Founder Buddy Johnson says he immediately saw the impact the trip had on the World War II veterans involved.

"I walked in at 5:30 AM and there's a veteran sitting in the terminal, a WWII veteran. And I walked up to him and before I could say a word he gave me the biggest smile and says you are looking at the happiest man in the world," Johnson says.  "I went over to the check in counter and I says, how long has that fellow been here? They said, 4:30 in the morning. He didn't sleep a wink that night you know."

That was the first flight.  A year later, the third and final honor flight is preparing for take off.

Honor Flight has flown 310 South Georgia veterans to Washington with 200 thousand dollars raised from the community.

Without it, many veterans may have never seen the memorial built in their honor.

"At my age, you don't do a lot of traveling like that," says Earl Wetherington, a WWII vet who flow on Honor Flight One.  "We possibly would have gone but I don't think it would have been anything like the trip we took. It was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

They received the thanks that's well overdue.  "They didn't come home and ask for a memorial. They wanted a job, an education, to raise a family. And the memorial wasn't completed until 2004 so it's been 63 years since any body has said to these people thank you for your service," Johnson says.

And an experience that will last long after the trip has ended.  "It only takes one day out of your life but it's a memory you'll have the rest of your life," Wetherington adds.

The last trip will be a special trip for South Georgia Honor Flight's other co-founder and World War Two veteran, Bert Powell.

Health problems kept him going on the first two flights but he's been cleared for take off Saturday!

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