Honor Flight takes WWII vets to Washington, DC

A charter flight of World War II veterans from the Grand Strand flew to Washington, DC Wednesday to visit the WWII Memorial and other landmarks in the nation's capital.

It was the fifth such Honor Flight out of Myrtle Beach since 2010. Organizers say 76 veterans made the no-charge trip, along with 72 guardians, a medical team and volunteers.

Walter Kollet, chairman of Honor Flight Myrtle Beach, says WWII veterans are dying at the rate of more than 1,200 every day.

"Most World War II veterans lack the says and means to visit their memorial," Kollet said. "With Honor Flight, we make that possible."

Jim Kendrick of Myrtle Beach was a B-17 bomber pilot, searching out Japanese submarines in the South Pacific during the war. He's seen most of the memorials in Washington DC before, but decided to take the Honor Flight to see them at least one more time.

"I think the World War II Memorial is the greatest thing they've done up there," Kendrick said. "It really is a nice, nice memorial."

One thought goes through Kendrick's mind whenever he sees the memorial for the war in which he fought many years ago.

"I'm lucky to be here. That's the way I see it. I'm 93."

The spokesperson for Honor Flight Myrtle Beach says the memorial wasn't finished until 2004, too late for many of the war's veterans to be able to see it. That's why Honor Flight organizers continue to seek out more Grand Strand vets to make the trip.

"So we're trying as hard as we can to get as many as we can up there," said Honor Flight public relations director Kris Southard.

The flight left Myrtle Beach at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday. It returned at 7:30 p.m. to cheering crowds.

That makes for a long day for the aging veterans, most of whom are in their 90's. But Southard says it's amazing how well they hold up through tours of all the major memorials in the nation's capital, along with a visit to Arlington National Cemetary.

"Their adrenaline is running high, they're so excited to be going up there and we are energized by their energy."