Columbia, SC - COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - More than 100 area World War II veterans were onboard a special flight Wednesday morning as the Honor Flight took off for Washington, DC. The flight gives veterans a free opportunity to visit the nation's war memorials.
Of those onboard the flight, none had ever seen the WWII memorial, lending a certain amount of credence to Honor Flight Network's entire purpose - to give those who served the county a chance to visit the nation's capitol and see the monuments that honor their service and sacrifice.
As the veterans got off the plane from Columbia Wednesday, dozens of people stood by to greet and thank them in the airport. From there, they were taken to the WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials.
"I can't tell you how thrilling it is," said Sgt. Donald Judd, who served on the front lines in WWII. "I've already cried about three times, over the thrill of our departure from Columbia and our greeting here and then seeing this wonderful memorial - it's just the most thrilling experience I've ever had."
The flight is paid for by the nonprofit Honor Flight, which sponsored the vets' entire trip. Honor Flight has chartered seven other flights since 2009 from Charleston and Columbia to the nation's capitol, transporting 90-95 veterans and 40-50 guardians at a time.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created to honor America's veterans for their sacrifices. The network transports veterans to Washington, DC to visit and reflect at various war memorials.
Another Honor Flight is scheduled to leave from Myrtle Beach in November.
According to Honor Flight Network, WWII veterans are dying at approximately 1,000 per day, which is why the group says they are now trying to take as many on the flights as possible. According to its website, honorflight.org, top priority is given to senior veterans, World War II survivors and other veterans who may be terminally ill.
The first Honor Flights flew out of Ohio in May 2005, transporting a dozen WWII vets. Three months later, the group's growing waiting list led them to begin chartering commercial airliners and eventually partnering with Hendersonville, NC-based HonorAir to form the Honor Flight Network.