It was my pleasure to take part in the South Carolina Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in April. This event was the most-organized and well-planned event in which I have ever taken part.

This flight was the first one which the Korean War veterans had been invited to take part. I found out last fall that the Korean War era veterans were to be included, so I immediately applied and was accepted. The flight was put on hold for weather concerns until the spring.

For those who are not familiar with the Honor Flight, it is an event in which the World War II veterans, and now, the Korean War era veterans, are flown to Washington, D.C., and back in the same day. During this trip, the veterans are taken by bus to the World War II Memorial, The Korean War Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Wall, the changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and the Air Force Memorial. This is a hectic schedule, of course, but everything went off without a hitch.  

The people who arrange and schedule these events are to be highly commended for their hard work and diligence in planning and executing these flights. The best thing about it all is that there is no cost to the veteran. The entire cost is paid by voluntary contributions, with no commercial mention at all.

When we arrived at Washington, there was a receiving line and a band to greet us and, when we left to come home, there was a band and a big group of people to send us off.

That was nothing compared to the receiving committee when we arrived at Columbia. There was a group of S.C. Highway Patrol Troopers lining the concourse at attention, with a hand salute. Outside the security checkpoint was a group of about 250 or 300 people lined up in a receiving line. There was also another band, very good and very loud, to greet us.  

Each and every person wanted to shake our hand and thank us for our service. That was very impressive. After working my way through the receiving line, I met my two sisters who had come to pick me up. There were also three “Miss Columbia” young ladies to meet us as well. I was lucky enough to have my picture made with them.

One special point was that each bus had its own “den mother,” responsible for the passengers on her bus. At each stop, she told us how long we had to visit and when to be back to the bus. She checked us in after each stop, and we did not lose anyone. There was also a “guardian” for every two veterans to assist with anything needed. If one needed special assistance or had mobility problems or was in a wheelchair, there was a one-on-one guardian provided. They really took care of us old veterans.

Once again, if you are a World War II veteran or a Korean War era veteran, check into the Honor Flight. It will be well worth your time.

Bill Leopard

Veteran, U.S. Navy, 1951-1955