Charleston's second Honor Flight of World War II veterans to the memorial in Washington, D.C., leaves today, and one of the organizers knows it could be the last adventure for some of the men.
Spokesman Loren Vevon recalled that an 87-year-old vet from the inaugural trip in November died just days after returning to Charleston.
He said the man was a Navy veteran who was thrilled at becoming one of the last ones to join the flight. "He was a stand-by who got to go because somebody else got sick," Vevon said.
The procedure for this trip follows the same schedule as the first one: Early this morning, 100 veterans and 50 escorts from around the Lowcountry, plus other medical professionals, will board a chartered plane from Charleston to Reagan Washington National Airport.
From there, the group will visit several D.C. sites, including the World War II Memorial on the Mall, the Korean War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
Afterward, the group will immediately return to Charleston International Airport, where they will be received by a large welcoming party at 6:30 p.m. inside the terminal. It's a one-day, up-there-and-back trip.
Charleston's chapter formed last summer to complement the already established Honor Flight South Carolina based in Columbia. The nationally run effort has allowed thousands of vets to see their monument even as those same former sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines are dying out at a rate of more than 1,000 a day.
The national Honor Flight network grew out of several pushes that began after the national, open-air World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004. A key feature is that veterans travel free of charge, based on donations.
One of the veterans scheduled to fly out from Charleston today said he was looking forward to seeing the monuments but also with mixing with other vets who served. "We're not going to be around much longer," said Russell Bennett of Bonneau, who was on the destroyer Herndon in China when a Japanese officer surrendered his command at war's end in 1945.
Bennett turns 86 today. He called the trip part of his birthday present.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at email@example.com.