Organization seeks funds for trip to DC

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

CONYERS -- Honor Flight Conyers offers aging veterans of World War II a chance to visit memorials honoring their service and sacrifice. The group is seeking help from the east metro community to get the first flight off the ground.

Honor Flight Conyers is one of the newest chapters formed from the original 2006 flight from Hendersonville, N.C. The idea is to honor veterans, their courage, valor and sacrifice at a time the country needed it most.

World War II veterans are given priority since they are in their late 80s and early 90s. Many have never been to Washington or seen the World War II Memorial that opened in their honor in 2005.

Honor Flight's goal is to get as many veterans as possible to the World War II Memorial. The major hurdle for the group now is fundraising.

"The biggest problem we have is money to get these guys on this trip before they die away," Dave Smith, president of Honor Flight Conyers, said recently at the Rotary Club of Rockdale County. Smith also recently spoke at the Rotary Club of Covington.

Veterans fly free and are accompanied by able-bodied volunteers, called Guardians, who assist with any physical or health needs and limitations. Paramedics will also fly with the group.

It costs $400 to sponsor a veteran to fly to Washington for the one-day visit. Volunteer Guardians pay their own way and help one or two veterans on the trip. Smith said the group needs between $10,000 and $15,000 to schedule its first flight.

The Rockdale Rotary Club gave $1,000 to Honor Flight Conyers during the meeting. Smith said another donation of $5,000 was confirmed but more is needed to take care of all the veterans who have applied so far.

Smith recalled some of the inspiring stories he heard when he flew with an Honor Flight out of Fayette County, one of the last done by that group.

"We had B-17 pilots and bubble turret gunners from B-17s and a Pearl Harbor survivor who was 95 years old and a commanding officer on the USS Maryland," Smith said. "The emotions you see from these men when they see the memorial. There weren't many dry eyes in the group."

Honor Flight Conyers is seeking to pick up from the Fayette County Honor Flight. That group disbanded after organizers there said their original intent was to serve local veterans. Overall, they organized seven flights and flew more than 500 veterans to Washington.

Smith said Honor Flight Conyers will accept veterans from all across Georgia and his talks with the Rotary Clubs were an effort to let veterans know about Honor Flight and also seek financial help from donors, sponsors and volunteers.

For more information or to make a donation, go to www.honorflightconyers.com or call 770-483-4049.