>Ordinary men and women became extraordinary heroes when the attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into World War II. Servicemen watched comrades die terrible deaths on beaches and in foxholes, were wounded in body and spirit, and bore witness to horrifying inhumanity. They liberated Europe from the Nazi occupation, and saved those suffering unimaginably in concentration camps. They defeated Japan. Then they, the greatest generation, came home and went back to their families, their work and their lives, never seeking any recognition or glory.
Jason McLeod, head of Honor Flight SENC, had a hard time describing the impact those trips had on the World War II veterans and the guardians who pay their own way to make sure the trip goes well. “This program changes lives,” he said. “It changes the lives of the veterans and it changes the lives of the guardians. I had one tell me that his life is better now, that his relationship with his wife is better, and that the nightmares had stopped. For some of them, it allows them to heal and lead a better life.”
William Smith, who lives in Atlantic in Carteret County, went on one of the earlier Honor Flights from Wilmington. The former Navy man, who served on Guadalcanal loading bombs into aircraft, raved about his experience. While he said the experience of seeing the memorial was moving, the reception the veterans received when they arrived back at the airport in Wilmington stands out, he said. “There were 2,000 people there to greet us – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts waving flags,” he said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
The nonprofit organization plans to fly 108 World War II veterans and their guardians from the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern to Washington, DC on Sept. 22 and with the help from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band at Cherry Point. The estimated time of arrival back in New Bern is 7:30 pm. Please arrive by 7:00 PM, so we can be ready to welcome them home.
Tim Necaise, the flight director for Sept. 22, served as a guardian on one of the Wilmington flights. “One of the best parts is when they come home and they are treated to a hero’s welcome,” he said. Necaise said that on his Honor Flight he escorted a veteran who landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave on D-Day on June 6, 1944. “I asked him how he summoned up the courage to do what he did that day, and he told me that he had resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die that day,” Necaise said. “Later, we went to the Vietnam Memorial, and I saw him touch his hand to the wall, and it was his son’s name on that wall. His son was killed in Vietnam. That brought it all home. He was prepared to give his own life on D-Day. He loses a son in Vietnam. That’s a hero. These are the people that Honor Flight is here to thank. Without these World War II veterans, where would we be today?”
Lester Turnale, who served in the Pacific during World War II, said he had thought about visiting the memorial when it opened in 2004. He said the thought of a long drive in Washington traffic as well as the expense kept him from making the trip. He said he’ll be on the Sept. 22 flight. “I think it’s great that someone would do this,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. I can hardly wait.”
Please come out and help us welcome the World War II Veterans home, shake their hands and wave flags!
Submitted by: Shirley Gabbert, Financial Manager for the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, 200 Terminal Drive, New Bern, NC, 252-638-8591