ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Six years ago this week, The National World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC.
A year later, A non-profit group began flying World War II veterans to the nation's capital for free to visit that memorial.
Recently, A group of southwest Georgia veterans made that trip, A special journey Honoring our Heroes.
Albany native Charlie Jenkins is getting his first look at the World War Two Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.
"Oh, it's nice. Brings back a lot of memories," said Jenkins.
Memories of his time as a young Army platoon leader during the war. "I was 19 when I left overseas, and 23 when I got back."
Jenkins had one of the most dangerous combat jobs in the military. "We were amphibious troops, so we were attached to the infantry divisions, so our job was we were the first ones there, get them on the beach and across the beach."
He led his platoon on four beach landings. "I had four D-days . . . North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and back to Normandy and then overseas 38 months."
After landing in Normandy, Jenkins fought his way through France and Belgium. "Ended up in Russian territory in Germany when it was over."
But not before being shot by a sniper in one battle. "I got wounded in Italy and had to go back to the hospital in north Africa for two months."
Despite those war wounds, Jenkins knows he was one of the lucky soldiers. "I had some real close friends that were lost."
And that's the main reason he wanted to come on this trip, To honor his fallen friends. "The ones that we lost are the ones that we need to respect the most."
Jenkins and about 80 other World War II vets from the Albany and Columbus areas got a free trip to see this memorial thanks to the Honor Flight Network.
"It's important for these gentlemen to see that they'll be remembered for a long time," said Royce Ard (Email) West Georgia Honor Flight Director.
In the last five years, Honor Flight has flown more than 35,000 vets to Washington to see the monuments built in their honor.
"It's always free to the vets," Ard said. "They've already paid. These guys wrote a check a long time ago."
This visit was the first to this memorial for all these veterans. "I'd read about it and seen pictures of it and really always wanted to come, but you know, you're gonna do it tomorrow," said Jenkins.
And they got the hero's treatment they deserved. "Everything's gone just perfect."
A perfect trip, Honoring our Heroes.
Be sure to check this story in the coming days for a link to WALB's half-hour special program on the 2010 Honor Flight.
Click HERE to visit the Honor Flight website
Click HERE to visit the regional Honor Flight hub website