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Local Veterans Spend a Day in D.C.

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

The last Wiregrass Honor Flight took place this past weekend.

It's the program that takes local World War II veterans to Washington D.C. for the day to see their memorial.

There have been three such trips in the past and this weekend was the last scheduled flight.

About 90 veterans went on this trip and every one of them has a story to tell.

World War II was a global military conflict spanning 6 continents.

“I invaded Okinawa,” said World War II veteran Dick Schoof.

“I went into the service in 1941,” said World War II veteran Wallace L. Smith

It was the deadliest war in history. More than 60 million people died worldwide, 400,000 of those were Americans.

“Kind of brings tears to your eyes, remembering back then,” said World War II veteran Bill Carpenter.

65 years after the end of the war…

“It doesn't seem that long ago, I guess,” said Carpenter.

Some area members of the Greatest Generation were recognized for saving the world.

“Heroes, they're heroes,” said World War II veteran and guardian Jesse Sharpe.

“They put their life on the line, they saved this country, they are the heroes that now we appreciate now than ever before because we are enjoying the freedom that they laid their lives down for so we could be here today,” said Bob Bunting, board of directors for Wiregrass Honor Flight.

Early Saturday morning, local World War II vets boarded a plane bound for Baltimore.

When they arrived they were in for quite the surprise.

“Today was wonderful, we got a great reception at Baltimore Washington International Airport,” said World War II veteran Penny Ballantine.

“I had no idea it would be anything like that, I was just completely surprised,” added Ballantine.

“I had tears in my eyes, the greeting was just unbelievable. It just overwhelms me that people could just, after such a length of time, greet World War II veterans and honor them they way they did,” said Schoof.

Then it was off to the nation's capitol where veterans checked out landmarks, including the memorial built specifically for them.

“It's been exciting, emotional, very emotional for me,” said Smith.

“I felt good that they finally honored the World War II veterans. It took a long time but at least they got a memorial,” said Ballantine.

Their day in D.C. brought back a lot of memories.

“I thought about so many different people that I knew; my friends that did not make it back,” Smith.
More than 16 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II.

“And I was (one of the) first blacks inducted into the Marine Corps,” said World War II veteran Bernest Brooks.

Veterans appreciate the recognition.

“I thought we would just come and see the memorial, I didn’t think anybody would recognize anything we'd ever done,” laughed Ballantine.

But say protecting America and what she stands for, is all in a day's work.

“I just did my job,” said Schoof.

Organizers of the honor flight say it's important these men and women receive the honor they deserve because it's estimated that 1,000 World War II veterans pass away every day.

On Tuesday on News 4 at 6 and 10, we will take you to Arlington National Cemetery as the veterans visit the Tomb of the Unknowns.


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