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Posted: November 10, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Giving back to the Greatest Generation

For some World War II veterans, it’s the trip of a lifetime.

Honor Flight, a nation-wide network with local hub programs, takes World War II veterans on an all-expenses paid trip to see the World War II monument in Washington D.C. During the trip, the veterans are honored like the heroes they are and given VIP treatment.

"They really did a fine job, said Navy veteran Grier Sims of Covington. "We were treated like kings."

Sims took his trip courtesy of an Honor Flight group in Fayetteville.

A group of Conyers residents are looking to give back to the greatest generation by forming an Honor Flight hub for the east metro area.

The idea started after hearing about the Honor Flight Fayette program, said Dave Smith, who is heading up the Conyers effort.

"We’re in the beginning stages for sure," said Smith, who runs Custom Engraving and Signs with his wife, Anita. The group has named the board and is in the process of setting up non-profit status so they can begin fundraising.

The group realized the urgency of the project, as many World War II veterans are in their late 80s and 90s.

"I don’t think we’re going to have trouble in finding guys that want to go," said Smith. "The biggest challenge is finding the money." The trip is free for veterans. For guardians, or someone who accompanies the veterans throughout the day, the trip costs $325.

Covington resident Venon Ison, 86, recently participated in an Honor Flight on Sept. 21 that flew from Columbus, Ga., to Washington.

"I think it was great," he said. "Every moment you were there, they were taking you to something or through something."

Ison was a Marine in World War II and was in campaigns across the Pacific Theater.

His daughter Becky Ison served as a guardian on the trip.

"All the things they do in one day is amazing," she said.

Smith joined the Honor Flight Fayette group for their Sept. 15 trip as a guardian.

"It’s a very rewarding trip," but a long day, said Smith.

The day started out before dawn in Fayetteville with 110 people, including 72 veterans, four paramedics, and the guardians, bussed to Hartsfield-Jackson with a motorcycle escort and flown up on an Air Tran flight. Active duty soldiers were on hand to assist the veterans in wheelchairs.

"When they get off the plane in Washington, the concourse was full of people, cheering them on and clapping," said Smith. Plush tour buses whisked them away to the World War II, Vietnam, and Korean monuments, and then to Arlington Cemetery. The group was flown back in the evening, also with cheers and police escorts.

"One of the other things is these vets, they’re having a day of their own," said Smith. "They get to go back and reminisce… They get together and they have their stories they can talk about.

"Sometimes they’ll open up a lot, sometimes not at all. It’s a very private, personal thing with them."

Nationally, Honor Flight has served about 40,000 veterans to Washington, according to Smith.

In Georgia, there are currently Honor Flight hubs in Fayette, Savannah, and West Georgia.

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