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Rockdale, area Vietnam vets travel to Washington

CONYERS -- Veterans Day this year will mean something even more special for a group of local Vietnam veterans as they go to Washington, D.C., to view the Vietnam War Memorial Wall for the very first time.

The group of 35 veterans and the support staff will fly out from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport today for the two-day trip. All expenses are paid by cable television's The History Channel for part of its series, "Vietnam HD."

Dave Smith, president of Honor Flight Conyers, said his group is coordinating the trip for the History Channel. This particular trip is above and beyond the trips involving World War II veterans.

"It's going to be a pretty special day for them, really," Smith said. "The veterans had to be ones who have never been to Washington to visit the actual wall itself. We didn't care if they had seen the traveling wall, but I don't think any of them have seen that either."

The group will arrive in Washington tonight. Along with the Vietnam War Memorial the veterans will visit the Iwo Jima and World War II memorials and travel to Arlington National Cemetery to watch the changing of the guards before returning home Saturday afternoon.

Like a regular Honor Flight, the trip will include "guardians," volunteers who help veterans on the trip. Smith said this will be different this trip since the veterans will be in their 60s rather than their 80s as it is with World War II vets.

"They will be more like team leaders where they can break up into teams of four to police themselves and make sure each other doesn't get lost," said Smith, who is flying with the Vietnam veterans today.

Honor Flight Conyers continues its work with World War II veterans. The next two flights are planned for sometime in the spring.

Anyone wishing volunteer or sponsor a veteran for a trip to Washington can go to www.honorflightconyers.com or call 770-483-4049.