World War II Veteran William Grady from Greenville expresses emotion. - Photo by Gilbert Scales“H” Hour arrived on Wednesday, November 4, for the eighty-six men and two women, World War II veterans, who were scheduled to be on the third “Honor Flight” Upstate South Carolina.

These veterans got up Wednesday morning before dawn, just as they had done during military basic training almost seventy years ago.

As they started arriving at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. they were entertained by the Homeschool Classic Stringers Orchestra under the direction of Mrs. Donna Ringenberg, as they entered the baggage claim area where they met their guardian (escort) and received their boarding pass. The veterans walked past the Pickens High School Army Junior ROTC Honor Guard on their way to the boarding area where they went through a security check before they boarded the U.S. Air flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Three Dillion’s Bus Service Coaches were assigned to transport the veterans to the following points of interest. The first and most important stop was at the World War II Memorial. This was the most important stop for the “Honor Flight.” The Memorial was designed and constructed to honor “the greatest generation.” And these veterans were a small part of this group. The first area of the Memorial visited was the South Carolina Column where a wreath was placed and a group picture was taken. For the next ninety minutes the veterans walked or were pushed in wheelchairs to view their Memorial.

Then they boarded the buses and were served lunch.

After lunch they rode to the Viet Nam, Korea and Lincoln Memorials. Ninety minutes later, they again boarded the buses to ride to the Iwo Jima Memorial where another group picture was taken.

The last stop was at Arlington National Cemetery, where they observed the solemn changing of the guard ceremony at the “Tomb of the Unknowns.”

They departed Arlington and headed back to Reagan National for the flight back to Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. The flight arrived back around 8:15 p.m.

As the veterans entered the waiting room area, patriotic music was being performed by the Easley High School Band. As they walked toward the escalators, a Joint Honor Guard from Easley High School Navy Junior ROTC and Southside High School Air Force Junior ROTC cadets saluted them.

And the last surprise of the day was over 350 family members, various veterans service organization members and a group of “Young Marines,” as well as the Easley High School Navy JROTC Color Guard were waiting to greet them on their arrival.

This flight consisted of three sets of World War II veteran brothers, four father-son teams, two father-in-law/son-in-law teams, seven father/daughter teams, four grandfathers/grandchild teams, and one grandfather-in-law/grand son-in-law.

Also, on this flight were three doctors, a nurse and several law enforcement officers who volunteer their time as guardians.

The aging veterans reside in six of the counties in the Upstate.

They were very thankful to be able to take this flight and visit the magnificent Memorial in their honor. For these men and women who risked their lives for this country in World War II, it was an experience of a lifetime.

 

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Mike Scruggs