Wednesday, May 15, 2013
There is no cost for the day trip on August 28th from Myrtle Beach to the WWII Memorial in D.C.
With the median age of living WWII veterans now at 92, there is growing concern about the future of the national program known as Honor Flight. “Time is of the essence…that’s our slogan” said Walter Kollet, Chairman of Honor Flight Myrtle Beach. Honor Flight is a non-profit organization with “hubs” located throughout the U.S. Their mission is to provide no cost trips to Washington, D.C. for WWII veterans. While in D.C. the veterans are escorted to the WWII Memorial located on the National Mall, often referred to as the Jewel of the National Mall.
Honor Flight Myrtle Beach is one of 4 hubs still flying in South Carolina. “We’ve organized 5 flights since 2010” said Kollet. “August 28th will be our 6th flight and we continue our mission to locate WWII veterans. It’s a privilege to escort these men and women to their WWII Memorial. We’ve taken 464 veterans so far”, he added.
The Myrtle Beach departure will be a day trip on a chartered plane capable of carrying up to 90 WWII veterans plus a medical team for the veterans’ safety. In addition, many “guardians” accompany the veterans on the flight. “Guardian sponsors are crucial to the program” said Kollet. “They make a donation to fly with the veterans and look after their needs. We travel with plenty of wheelchairs so veterans can get around D.C. with comfort. The guardians assist the veterans as they all enjoy the sights. It’s a memorable day for the guardians too” he added.
A full day is planned for August 28th. The Honor Flight will leave Myrtle Beach International Airport shortly after sunrise and will return just before sundown. Previous flights have returned to the airport with hundreds of Grand Stranders waiting with cheers of appreciation for the veterans.
Bert Cassels founded the Myrtle Beach chapter of Honor Flight in early 2010. “The main goal is for WWII veterans to see their war memorial which was 60 years in the making. It was dedicated in 2004. It’s magnificent. Now we are against the clock” said Cassels. “The majority of veterans can’t get there on their own” he said.
Both Kollet and Cassels are veterans and understand the importance of this trip. “These senior veterans deserve this trip. We need to find them. Please help us locate them” Kollet urged. He went on to say how difficult it has become to locate WWII veterans who are both willing and physically able. Although each Honor Flight has support systems in place, many veterans dismiss the chance due to failing health. “Time is of the essence…we will do all within our power to help a veteran get on that plane” said Cassels.
The total cost of each Honor Flight is $60,000 and is paid for entirely by donations and fundraising events. Honor Flight Myrtle Beach is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. “We’re losing our WWII veterans much too quickly. We want to fill this plane for August 28th” said Kollet. “Also those interested in being a guardian sponsor should contact us right away” he added.
The day trip will include a 2 hour visit to the WWII Memorial on the National Mall along with visits to the Korean, Vietnam and Iwo Jima Memorials. The day in D.C. will conclude at Arlington National Cemetery for the “Changing of the Guard”.
Honor Flight organizers can be reached at (843)957-8212 or visit their web site at www.HonorFlightMyrtleBeach.com for information, flight applications or to make a secure on-line donation.