By Tammy Childress
They have been called “The Greatest Generation.” They fought a war unlike any before or since. And last weekend they took a journey from Northeast Tennessee to the nation’s capital to remember their own service and to honor their brothers in arms.
Congressman Phil Roe was on hand April 11 to see off 17 veterans from World War II and four from the Korean War as they departed Johnson City on the Honor Flight Tour. “This is one of the most important events in these men and women’s lives. They sacrificed of themselves and gave so much to our country. It’s only fitting that we honor them in this way,” said Roe.
Through the efforts of the Honor Flight organization, the veterans were given an all-expenses-paid trip culminating with a visit to the World War II Memorial on the mall in Washington.
The bus arrived back in Johnson City at 6:30 pm on Sunday. “You just have to be on one of these trips to see what it means to these veterans,” said Edie Lowry, president, Honor Flight Northeast Tennessee. “We had a deputy sheriff from Wythe County, Va., serving as a guardian this year and he arranged for two sheriff’s deputies to escort the bus in every county from Johnson City to D.C. They were waiting at the county line for us to arrive. They pulled out in front of the bus and escorted us to the next county, lights flashing. When we would get close to the upcoming county the escort would pull over and salute the men on the bus as they crossed over into the next county. When we got to Christiansburg, there were 15 motorcycles that were waiting on us and they were joined by others along the way. That group of motorcycles escorted the bus right to the V.A. memorial. It was exciting to see those veterans with huge smiles on their faces.”
Don Womack, a participating WWII veteran, said “I can’t remember ever making a more memorable and emotional trip, which will stay with me till I leave this world.”
Kenneth Baggett, another WWII vet agreed, saying, “I didn’t know that people still cared.”
The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant and retired Air Force captain who was hired by the V.A. to take care of WWII veterans.
The next trip is in October. To apply as a veteran, guardian or volunteer go to honorflightnetn.org.
The complete article is available in the April 19 print edition of The Johnson City News & Neighbor.