While on-going articles in the Daily Journal feature World War II veterans from Richmond County who will be attending the Rotary District 7680 Flight of Honor from Charlotte to Washington, D.C., some may not know the flight is fully funded.
The flight costs $500 per veteran, and $300 for guardians. At ten veterans total, that comes to $5,000, just for our area. The program is not nationally or government funded. This is funded through Rotary International, and individual donations, as well as fraternal organizations such as American Legion, VFW, Am Vets, DAV and the Military Order of the Purple Hearth. Guardians pay their own way, and volunteer to pamper the veterans, and assist them in any way they need.
Retired Army Col. Larry Rogers is the local Flight of Honor chair at Hamlet Rotary, and talked about the last flight in November.
“I took it upon myself to look for vets and take up money,” said Rogers. “This is the least we can do for them. We need more community involvement. I would like to be able to get every veteran that is able to go, to Washington, D.C. to the memorial.”
Last year, the veterans met Rogers at Shoney’s in the evening, and left for Charlotte on a van lent to them by the First Baptist Church of Rockingham, with a full tank of gas, courtesy of Am Vets. Rogers checked the veterans into their hotel, then took them out to dinner at Cracker Barrel, which the Richmond County Am Vets paid for as well.
“When the plane landed in D.C. there were two firetrucks spraying water on it, there were flags and people lined up to welcome them, and a band was playing,” said Rogers. “On our way back people were dressed in WWII-period clothes, dancing WWII-period dances to WWII-period music, and some of the vets got out there and danced with them.”
Rogers said that when the vets exited the plane back in Charlotte, people were lined down the walls past the gate inside the airport, waiting to greet the veterans. He said Richmond County pulled out the stops, too.
“When we hit the bridge, the Richmond County Sheriff and Rockingham Police Chief gave us a blue-light escort back to Shoney’s.”
An estimated 1,000 WWII veterans die each day. For many, this trip is their ‘last hurrah’ and people with veteran relatives may want to get in touch with Rogers to learn how to sign up for upcoming trips. The next trip will be in either September or October. If you know a veteran that would like to visit the memorial, contact Col. Larry Rogers at (910) 331-7435.
“We need as many donations as possible,” said Rogers. “I was at a Lions Club meeting and someone came up to me and said, ‘I don’t have much, but I would like to donate,’ and he gave me $13. Anything is a help. Even $1, it doesn’t matter, it adds up.”
Rogers said he has ongoing fundraisers to support the program, and this Saturday Rotary they will have a yard sale. He said that if people are interested in donating, the check should be made out to “Flight of Honor” and mailed to him at 109 N. Ledbetter St., Rockingham, NC 28379. If the checks are made out to “Flight of Honor” the Richmond County veterans will receive the credit.
The plane taking veterans on the flight will carry 120 veterans and 50 support personnel, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and media. The plane will be equipped with oxygen, a defibrillator, “and everything you can think of,” according to Rogers. He understands how well the plane is prepared because a veteran had a heart attack on the last flight. He said the man was treated and cared for as best as possible.
Rogers said the doctors and paramedics serve as guardians as well.
“The role of the guardians is to pamper that vet. You need coffee? I’ll get it. You want a biscuit? I’ll bring it to you,” said Rogers.
One guardian is responsible for the comfort of three veterans, with the main goal of making sure the veterans stay hydrated throughout the day, and rest if they are tired. Wheelchairs will be available if a vet should need one.
Rogers will be going on the Flight of Honor on May 21.
“I’m looking forward to going again,” he said. He hopes the community will be involved and donate funds; as, for many vets, this will be a trip of a lifetime.
Honorflight.com and Honorflights.com are not associated with Honor Flight Network, Inc. (honorflight.org). The aforementioned sites are for companies that charge a fee for flights to visit the World War II Memorial. The flights and tours that Honor Flight Network provides World War II and terminally ill veterans are free.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.