Gail Sparrow, a co-founder of Honor Flight Fayette (HFF), reported the good news that the first flight of WWII Vets to Washington DC is scheduled on May 14, 2008. She said we would assemble near the Fayette County Courthouse, probably in a church parking lot of one of the churches in the area. From that moment on everything is taken care of by HFF until we are returned to this same assembly point. WWII Vets will need no money except for souvenirs that may want to purchase. Gail and Brenda Smith, Publicity Chairperson, attended the regular monthly meeting of VFW Post 9949 on January 10, 2008 at the Gathering Place in Peachtree City.
Among those assembled were 8 VFW Post 9949 members who are WWII Vets and registered to go. There were also 2 members of the Kiwanis Club of Peachtree City Golden K in attendance, who are WWII Vets and delivered their applications to go to Washington. Gail said she had 61 applications from WWII Vets when she came; she received 3 more Vets plus 1 Guardian application. In a Friday conversation Gail said she received 3 more application; there are enough now to fill the first flight. She has EMT's and possibly a Doctor for this first flight. We are flying on commercial flights between Hartsfield and Reagan International Airport. There are a lot of fine details to be worked out. For those of you going or are questioning whether your WWII Vet is able to go I recommend you visit the National site at http://www.honorflight.org/.
There you will find a listing of frequently asked questions that will help you with questions about wheelchairs and oxygen needs as you try to decide if your beloved WWII Vet is able to handle the trip. It will be a very long day probably close to 12 hours or more. Remember there are possible hour + naps on the flights each way. You could also grab a couple of quick naps on the busses. My personal view is that you should send in an application as soon as possible just in case you are ruled able to travel; if you delay you will find yourself way down on a list that will go on the basis of first received, first to go. If your name comes up and you can't go on the next flight, your name will slip down to the top for the succeeding flight. The National site will tell you that over 60 VETS who were signed to go have passed while waiting for their name to come to the top of the list. My guess is that before this first flight leaves there will be a waiting list approaching 300 or more on the Fayette County list.. Gail said she will Post on the local site the list of VETS going on the May 14th flight at http://www.honorflightfayette.org/
This program started in May 2005 and the first group of 12 WWII Vets flew in on 6 small private planes. The trip was just a week before the first anniversary of the WWII Memorial Dedication Ceremony that was held on May 29, 2004. Another document on the National site said 891 had traveled by the end of 2006. In 2007 the goal was to fly 5000 Vets to Washington. Flights are scheduled from mid-April through early November to avoid cold weather and possible flight delays. When the program started only the site in Dayton, Ohio existed. As of now 27 local chapters exist including 3 in Georgia. If the 2007 goal was met about 6000 have been transported. That sounds like a big number and it is, but I calculate that there are around 2,200,000 living WWII Vets today. From my sample of WWII Vets in Post 9949 only about 60% or around 1,300,000 are able and wanting to go. So if you could get the visits up to 100,000 a year, it would take 13 years to get everyone there. One problem is WWII Vets are dying at the rate of 1200 per day or roughly 450,000 a year. The youngest WWII Vets in our Post are 79 years old. A very small % of us will live beyond 95 years. My goal is to celebrate 100 years.
I've included two photos; one showing the Honor Flight Fayette spokespersons (Gail Sparrow and Brenda Smith) in front of the VFW members and our WWII guests. The other is from the national site which shows a group picture of an Honor Flight from some unknown community. If you open it in your photo program and zoom in you will see 19 Vets in wheelchairs and/or power scooters and 35 Vets in two rows behind the handicapped VETS. There is one female Vet in the grouping. Also at the right end of the grouping you will recognize former Senator Bob Dole. Look at the smiles on most of these faces. If you think you can't go and said no to going, look again and say I can make it and I will smile just as these handicapped Vets are doing.
So we have a schedule and a few optimists who say we can and will get the funds from individuals, businesses, service clubs, and entrepreneurs to pay for the free trips. If you want to contribute make your checks to Honor Flight Foudation of Fayette, Inc. a 502(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Donations are 100% deductible. Mail to Honor Flight Foundation of Fayette, Inc., P.O Box 1209, Fayetteville, GA 30214.. VFW Post 9949 voted to donate $2100.00,which would cover about 7 of our WWII Vets who are going. Donations of $35.00 or more will result in your name and your honoree being on the web site and you may make the donation in honor of family members or friends who are unable to visit the memorial.
My Comrades from WWII please make this trip if you possibly can- yes for you who are handicapped and have several health problems it will tire you out but it will be an experience that wont regret.. I bet that most of the 1200 WWII Vets who are dying every day had a fond hope of seeing the Memorial erected to honor and remember their sacrifices that insured the great liberties we all enjoy.