A trip of honor: Polk veterans visit WWII memorial in Washington D.C.

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three local veterans recently visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Harold Taylor, left, Bill Anderson, Ted Tinnon and trip guardian and Tryon Rotary member Don Lyons stand in front of the North Carolina section of the monument. (photo submitted)&bsp;Thanks to the Tryon and Thermal Belt Rotaries, the three World War II veterans were able to fly to Washington to visit the National World War II Memorial.

Miller&squo;s mission

In 2006, Hendersonville resident and business owner Jeff Miller began raising funds to take some Hendersonville veterans to the World War II Memorial in the nation&squo;s capitol.

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Miller solicited funds from local businesses, raising money to send these veterans to see the monument built on their behalf.

Initially, Miller and the Henderson County Honor Air program sent six planes loaded with veterans to Washington to take in the memorial.

Afterwards, Miller hooked up with Earl Morse and the HonorFlight Network was formed. This nationwide network is active in 32 states and has sent approximately 20,000 veterans to see the memorial.

The Tryon Rotary Club discovered the program during a board training event, Lyons said.

The trip

Polk&squo;s three veterans were in for a treat when their plane touched down in the nation&squo;s capitol.

Before they got off the plane, they were honored by the local fire department, whose trucks did an honor spray over the plane from each side.

They exited the plane and were greeted by Boy Scout troops, current soldiers and many other people who were there to thank them for their service.

&dquo;It was just a gigantic effort these guys made,&dquo; Lyons said. &dquo;It was really interesting just watching (the veterans) enjoy it.&dquo;

&dquo;We were welcomed all over the place,&dquo; Tinnon said. &dquo;I can&squo;t tell you how many people thanked us for our service.&dquo;

And then the day began.

They visited not only the World War II Memorial, but also the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. They also visited the Iwo Jima monument and the World War II Women&squo;s Memorial.

At the World War II Memorial, the veterans were greeted by General Colin Powell. Powell said hello, shook a few hands and was off.

The memorial is the result of an 11-year effort. It was first authorized by Congress to begin in May of 1993. Construction began in September, 2001.

The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004, and was dedicated a month later on May 29.

It&squo;s located on Washington&39;s Mall, on the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

&dquo;It&squo;s just beautiful,&dquo; Lyons said. &dquo;I was really impressed by it.&dquo;

Future efforts

The trip cost the three veterans and Lyons nothing.

Their trip was funded through efforts of the two local Rotary organizations.

And now there are two more trips planned, one on April 18 and another on May 16.

There are around 100 veterans in Polk County, and Lyons and fellow Rotarians say they want to get them all to the memorial.

&dquo;The more we get to go, the better off we&squo;ll be,&dquo; Lyons said.

That&squo;s why he and the organizations are asking for support from the community.

&dquo;It would give a sense that the community&squo;s helping out,&dquo; he said.

The board members who attended the training session knew when they listened to the HonorAir presentation that it was something that they wanted to do.

&dquo;We came out of there thinking this is what Rotary is supposed to be about,&dquo; he said. &dquo;What better way than to help the veterans?&dquo;

So now Lyons and others will be going out into the community seeking support to get these veterans to a memorial that was long overdue.

Most of the World War II veterans are in their 70s and 80s. To get these veterans to the memorial is a cause Lyons and others are willing to work hard for.

And moments like Taylor had in the Arlington National Cemetary are the moments that this program was designed for.

&dquo;It was a great trip,&dquo; he said. &dquo;I was thrilled to death.&dquo;

Anyone who would like to help out with the program can send checks to The Rotary Club of Tryon at P.O. Box 122. Tryon, N.C. 28782 or call project coordinator Don Lyons at 894-2975.Local veterans Ted Tinnon, left, Harold Taylor and Bill Anderson stand in front of the fountain at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. (photo submitted)&bsp;