Eighty World War II veterans from Upstate S.C. departed Greenville-Spartanburg Airport around 9:15 a.m., Tuesday, April 20, on board U.S. Airways flight 9090 to Washington, D.C.
As the plane taxied toward the gate area, two Reagan National Airport fire trucks, one on each side, presented a water cannon salute to the veterans.
When the veterans entered the airport they were greeted by well-wishers carrying American flags and patriotic posters.
The veterans, guardians and support staff were pre-assigned red, white and blue I.D. badges and were assigned to the buses of like colors.
The group then boarded the three buses, along with a tour guide who narrated the different points of interest on the way to the World War II Memorial.
The veterans formed two lines behind the wheelchair veterans on the sidewalk leading to the “Pacific” tower where they entered the WWII Memorial. They next walked to the “South Carolina” pillar where a wreath was placed.
Phil Piazza, 93, a U.S. Army Ranger carried the wreath on his wheelchair. Two other veterans, also in wheelchairs, carried the American and South Carolina flags in the procession. After this ceremony, the veterans were on their own to visit, take pictures, or just observe their magnificent memorial.
Everyone then got back on the buses where a box lunch, which contained a large sandwich, chips, mixed fruit slices, soft drinks and water.
The veterans next visited the “Korean War Memorial,” the “Vietnam Wall” and the “Lincoln Memorial” are located.
The veterans were either in wheelchairs pushed by their guardians, or walked with their guardians to visit these memorials.
The buses next drove to the “Iwo Jima” Memorial, better known today as the “U.S. Marine Corps Memorial” which depicts the date 10 November 1775, the date congress authorized two battalions of Marines.
The last stop was Arlington National Cemetery, where the changing of the guard ceremony was observed.
The buses had a National Park Police escort while driving through the D.C. area, and the buses also had a DC Police escort from Arlington Cemetery to Reagan National Airport.
As everyone reboarded the U.S. Airways flight back to Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, each was handed a brown bag which contained a sandwich and chips plus drinks and water was available on the plane. Hot coffee was also served.
Faye Kennedy, 88, from Seneca, a U.S. Navy nurse, was the only female veteran on the flight.
Upon arriving back in Greenville the veterans were welcomed back by over three hundred well-wishers, as well as family and friends. Miss South Carolina and Miss Easley were also there to shake the veterans’ hand, as they came down the escalators or walked down the stairs.
Betty Waldrop, founder of “Honor Flight Upstate, SC,” said the trip was a successful event, “People were so appreciative, I think that they had the time of their lives.”
If you are a World War II veteran, of if you know a WWII veteran who has not been on one of the four “Honor Flights,” please call 864-963-5774.
If you would like to make a contribution for a future Honor Flight, send your check to: Honor Flight Upstate SC, P.O. Box 838, Simpsonville, SC 29681.