‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world’

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

Randall Palmer said Saturday that when he heard that Covington County was hosting a regional Honor Flight to take World War II veterans to Washington D.C., he knew he had to make the trip — regardless.

“I found out about it, reading The Star-News,” Palmer said. “I had missed out on the Prattville trip and when I saw it in the paper, I knew I was going to go. I’m so looking forward to it. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Palmer was one of more than 30 veterans who attended Saturday’s Covington Region Honor Flight reception and orientation session on the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College’s Opp campus. The flight, which is scheduled for Sat., May 2, will take a combination of WWII veterans and guardians to visit the WWII monument and Arlington National Cemetery. Of the 75 people scheduled to go, 38 are veterans and 20 are guardians, who paid $400 in their own money to assist the veterans on the trip. The remaining six are media representatives and medical personnel.

Buddy Johnson, the regional director of the Honor Flight Network who headed the day’s events, said 16 million U.S. citizens served in WWII.

“Of those, 400,000 gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Johnson said. “When a person sees those 4,000 stars on the monument representing those who gave their life — it’s an amazing thing.

“There are approximately 3 million WWII veterans left and they are dying at a rate of 1,000 per day,” he said. “These veterans deserve to see their monument.”

Locally, the group will depart from Andalusia and Opp at 3 a.m. and return home at midnight. They will arrive in Washington shortly after 11 a.m. and will depart at 6:30 p.m.

“Our oldest veteran traveling with the group is 93 and another four are confined to a wheelchair,” he said. “On that day, we will do so much walking — we’ll see the monument and observe the changing of the guard at Arlington. This is going to be one of the most special days in a veteran’s life.”

Mary Phillips said her husband Robert will be making the trip next month.

“I’m not going to get to go with him,” Phillips said. “But I tell you this, he’s talked about it forever. I’m thankful he’s going to have this experience.”

Since 2005, Honor Flight has transported more than 18,000 veterans to see their memorial. Earlier this month, the CRHF announced it had met its goal of $35,000 in order to make the event possible. Plans are already under way to schedule another Honor Flight — this one for Korean War veterans — said Tonitta Sauls, CRHF board president.