About 100 local World War II veterans will fly out of Raleigh Thursday on a trip to see the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.
The nonprofit Triangle Flight of Honor has provided the all expenses paid, daylong trip for veterans to see the memorial built in their honor. They’ll also see the Iwo Jima, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials
Director Sunny Johnson said these trips give veterans – who range in age from 84 to 97 years old and include two women – a sense of closure and a chance to tell their stories.
“They’re reminiscing, and they’re thinking about their troop members that didn’t necessarily come home after the war,” Johnson said.
A crowd including other veterans and active-duty soldiers, Marines and sailors greeted the veterans as they arrived at a flag-covered entrance at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. People lined up on top of the parking deck to see their flight take off, and RDU firefighters shot a water arch over their plane.
A crowd also waited to greet the veterans in Reagan National Airport in D.C.
Air Force veteran Everette Jones said the send-off contrasted sharply with the welcome he got when arrived back in Raleigh after serving in the Pacific.
“It means a whole lot,” Jones said. “When I came out of the service and was discharged, I came to Raleigh on a bus, and (there was) nobody to greet you or nothing. I hopped the bus and went home.”
The public is invited to welcome the veterans back home later Thursday at a ceremony in the airport’s parking garage atrium at 7:30 p.m. The N.C. National Guard Color Guard will salute the veterans, and the Cardinal Gibbons High School marching band will perform.
The Flight of Honor organization has arranged flights for veterans from across North Carolina and the nation to see the WWII memorial. Thursday’s flight was the first from the Triangle. Another flight was scheduled for this fall, and another in the spring.
Flight of Honor organizers want as many of the aging veterans – many of whom are ill or on fixed incomes – as possible to see the WWII memorial, which was finished only in 2004.