Giv­ing back to the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion

The Covington News - - Local news - By Michelle Kim news@rock­dale­

For some World War II vet­er­ans, it’s the trip of a life­time.

Honor Flight, a na­tion­wide net­work with lo­cal hub pro­grams, takes World War II vet­er­ans on an all-ex­penses paid trip to see the World War II mon­u­ment in Washington D. C. Dur­ing the trip, the vet­er­ans are hon­ored like the he­roes they are and given VIP treat­ment.

“ They re­ally did a fine job, said Navy vet­eran Grier Sims of Cov­ing­ton. “ We were treated like kings.”

Sims took his trip cour­tesy of an Honor Flight group in Fayet­teville.

A group of Cony­ers res­i­dents are look­ing to give back to the great­est gen­er­a­tion by form­ing an Honor Flight hub for the east metro area.

The idea started af­ter hear­ing about the Honor Flight Fayette pro­gram, said Dave Smith, who is head­ing up the Cony­ers ef­fort.

“ We’re in the be­gin­ning stages for sure,” said Smith, who runs Cus­tom En­grav­ing and Signs with his wife, Anita. The group has named the board and is in the process of set­ting up non-profit sta­tus so they can be­gin fundrais­ing.

The group re­al­ized the ur­gency of the project, as many World War II vet­er­ans are in their late 80s and 90s.

“ I don’t think we’re go­ing to have trou­ble in find­ing guys that want to go,” said Smith. “ The biggest chal­lenge is find­ing the money.” The trip is free for vet­er­ans. For guardians, or some­one who ac­com­pa­nies the vet­er­ans through­out the day, the trip costs $ 325.

Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent Venon Ison, 86, re­cently par­tic­i­pated in an Honor Flight on Sept. 21 that flew from Colum­bus, Ga., to Washington.

“ I think it was great,” he said. “ Ev­ery moment you were there, they were tak­ing you to some­thing or through some­thing.”

Ison was a Ma­rine in World War II and was in cam­paigns across the Pa­cific Theater.

His daugh­ter Becky Ison served as a guardian on the trip.

“All the things they do in one day is amaz­ing,” she said.

Smith joined the Honor Flight Fayette group for their Sept. 15 trip as a guardian.

“ It’s a very re­ward­ing trip,” but a long day, said Smith.

The day started out be­fore dawn in Fayet­teville with 110 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 72 vet­er­ans, four paramedics, and the guardians, bussed to Harts­field-Jack­son with a mo­tor­cy­cle es­cort and flown up on an Air Tran flight. Ac­tive duty sol­diers were on hand to as­sist the vet­er­ans in wheel­chairs.

“ When they get off the plane in Washington, the con­course was full of peo­ple, cheer­ing them on and clap­ping,” said Smith. Plush tour buses whisked them away to the World War II, Viet­nam, and Korean mon­u­ments, and then to Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery. The group was flown back in the evening, also with cheers and po­lice es­corts.

“ One of the other things is these vets, they’re hav­ing a day of their own,” said Smith. “ They get to go back and rem­i­nisce… They get to­gether and they have their sto­ries they can talk about.

“ Some­times they’ll open up a lot, some­times not at all. It’s a very pri­vate, per­sonal thing with them.”

Na­tion­ally, Honor Flight has served about 40,000 vet­er­ans to Washington, ac­cord­ing to Smith.

In Ge­or­gia, there are cur­rently Honor Flight hubs in Fayette, Sa­van­nah, and West Ge­or­gia.

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