On Sept. 15, Honor Flight Fayette will be making its last voyage to the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Honor Flight has been chauffeuring WWII veterans to memorials since 2007, and this is the group’s seventh and final such flight.
Flight days are a flurry of activity, beginning with a send-off breakfast in downtown Fayetteville and a subsequent police-escorted ride through Fayetteville to Hartsfield International Airport.
The veterans are often stunned that they make the trip without stopping once, as local police and sheriff’s deputies block the road so they may pass in a traditional sign of respect. The Patriot Guard motorcycle group leads the escort with American flags waving, signifying to the public that special dignitaries are on board the church buses bound to the airport.
At Hartsfield, the veterans get a warm sendoff from AirTran personnel and other passengers as they start the airborne leg of their journey.
In the air, the veterans receive what back in the day was called “V-mail” in the form of letters written specifically to each one by local students.
Once they touch down in Washington, the veterans are welcomed by AirTran with a ceremonial shower from fire trucks’ water cannons, and then the real fun begins. Once inside the terminal, the veterans are greeted at the airport with a hero’s welcome, which touches the hearts of all involved.
During the day the veterans will make their way to the WWII memorial, and later to Arlington National Cemetery.
When they return to the Atlanta airport, often after 9 or 10 at night, the veterans are tired, but their hearts are full. Along the way, they ran into many others who appreciated them for the sacrifices they made, such as middle school students from California who gave an ovation to the Honor Flight veterans when they were returning to their buses at Arlington during a recent trip.
About 4-6 weeks after their trip, the veterans gather one more time for a reception at the Fayette Senior Services building. By then, many of them have already written back to their elementary school pen pals, and all of them will have had the honor of one last glorious ride, a moment in the sun, a chance for Americans of all shapes and sizes to thank them once more for their sacrifice in keeping our country free.
The veterans also get to bask in their camaraderie, a chance to share with others some tremendously heartbreaking war stories, and to relive the good times too, organizers said. In fact, many of the Honor Flight veterans, both male and female, use the trip as a chance to network with others who may have served in the same unit or under similar circumstances.
Although this will be the last voyage of Honor Flight Fayette, several other Honor Flight groups have sprung up in the state, specifically in Columbus and Savannah, that will also be carrying WWII veterans to the national memorial, and those few from here who couldn’t make it on the local flights will have a chance to join those out of town efforts, organizers said.