Ten Macon County veterans from the May 14 Honor Air flight to Washington, D.C. attended the meeting of the Franklin Rotary Club recently. WWII veterans Albert James, Ray Penland, Nebs Anksorus, James Anderson, Jack Vaughn, Jack Garrett, Ray Welch, Paul Shepherd, Leonard Sinkbeil, and David Watters visited the Club, had lunch and were treated to a Power Point presentation by Rotarian Gary Dills featuring pictures from the group’s trip to Washington, DC.
Speaking on behalf of the veterans, WWII veteran Jack Garrett told Rotary Club members that, “The trip was wonderful and could never be duplicated.” Garrett said that the welcome home the group received at the Asheville Airport “took our breath away,” and he thanked the Rotarians on behalf of the group of veterans for “caring and looking after us” during the trip.
At the Rotary meeting that Wednesday, the veterans were presented with “Quilts of Valor,” handmade by the Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild. Speaking on behalf of the Quilters Guild, Carlee Nichols said that more than 37,000 quilts of valor have been presented to veterans throughout America by the various quilters guilds. She said that the “Quilts of Valor” program is “not about politics, it’s about people.”
Several Macon County law enforcement officers led the bus carrying the veterans from Franklin to the Asheville Airport early on the morning of May 14. The group left on a chartered US Air jet, landed at Reagan National Airport where they were met by an honor guard and taken by bus to the WWII Monument. After lunch, the group toured Washington, D.C., visited other monuments, and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They returned home to the Asheville Airport about 7:30 p.m. the same day where they were met by an honor guard and several hundred well-wishers waving American flags and cheering as the group passed through the airport lobby after leaving the plane.
Honor Air was begun in 2006 by Hendersonville resident Jeff Miller to escort Western North Carolina WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the WWII Memorial, as well as the Korean War Veterans, Vietnam Veterans’ Memorials, and Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Air is a service project of Rotary District 7670 of which the Rotary Club of Franklin is a member. More than 60 charted flights have been completed since 2006, and the flight on May 14 was the final Honor Air flight.
The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 for a generation whose youngest members are in their late 70s. Many of the men and women who fought and sacrificed for our country have not had an opportunity or ability, to visit the Memorial. Honor Air created an opportunity for many veterans who, because of physical or financial limitations, may otherwise have never seen the Memorial.