Editorial | WWII vets sought for April trip to Washington

02/04/2014 4:48 PM

02/04/2014 4:49 PM

Honor Flight Myrtle Beach has an “all-out campaign’’ under way for World War II veterans, guardians and cash donations for the seventh and final trip to visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.

“This is by far the most difficult flight to fill,’’ says Honor Flight volunteer Bill Krzyk. “We’re creeping up on 60 days to flight date’’ on April 16 and have 38 veterans and an equal number of guardians or sponsors who donate $500. The guardians’ contributions total about one-third of the total $60,000 cost. The goal is to have 75 WWII veterans, 60 guardians, a medical team and Honor Flight volunteers and a photographer.

Guardians are provided for all veterans needing assistance; in many cases, however, a guardian may come with the veterans -- a son or daughter who wants to accompany a parent. A handful or area guardians have made all six of the flights from Myrtle Beach, beginning in November 2010. The chartered aircraft carries 150 and Honor Flight volunteers are rightly proud of the fact that the flights are filled.

The six flights have carried 517 area WWII veterans to Washington. “It’s very pleasing to say that,’’ Krzyk says. The flights leave early in the morning and return to a grand welcome home. Veterans and guardians on the flights have been impressed, nearly overwhelmed, with the experience, especially the evening reception after a long day.

Washington area Honor Flight volunteers warmly greet veterans at Reagan National Airport and see flights off after a day of visiting the World War II Memorial and others on the Mall and in the Washington area, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Honor Flights began in 2005 with small airplanes carrying two veterans. The effort has now taken an estimated 114,000 WWII veterans on the trips.

“It’s very sad to think this is the last flight,’’ Krzyk says, but across the United States many Honor Flight chapters have ceased operations. “We’re just not finding WWII veterans,’’ Krzyk says. The median age is 92 for surviving WWII and many are not physically able to make the trip.

“I see a substantial change -- so many vets just cannot go ... their health is changing.’’ The youngest age for a WWII vet is 85 -- a 17-year-old who served in 1946.

A Florence area hospice is one of the many groups looking for veterans. Last December, Krzyk read about Calvin Harrison, who served on the USS Mahogany, an anti-submarine net laying ship. Krzyk sought Christmas cards through the national Honor Flight and Harrison received more than 10,000; on one day, the Postal Service delivered 2,300 cards.

“Now, Mr. Harrison’s hospice care workers are finding WWII vets in Florence.’’ Harrison’s application has been completed and Krzyk is looking for sponsors for Harrison’s son and two caregivers on the April 16 flight.

Honor Flight Myrtle Beach volunteers have done a great service for over 500 members of the Greatest Generation and we urge folks across the Grand Strand to financially support and to help locate veterans and guardians for Flight No. 7.

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