Rotarians give to Honor Flight

Published 9:59 pm Monday, July 7, 2008

Rotarians help support Honor Flight cause

By Deborah Goodwin

The Selma Times-Journal

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A check from the Selma Rotary Club may have put a World War II veteran a step closer to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A $1,500 donation made by the service club to the Honor Flight Network will help finance an all-expense paid trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization started in 2005 solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant and retired Air Force captain, started the program in Springfield, Ohio to honor veterans.

Check Stephens, 86, a World War II veteran and Selma Rotarian hopes to visit the memorial. He and his wife, Margaret, agreed the Rotary Club’s donation was money well spent.

“It something that needs to be cherished,” Stephens said. “We need to stand up and be counted.

Rotarian Joe Mathis of Prattville was the guest speaker at the club’s meeting held at the St. James Hotel on Monday. The former Air Force pilot of 27 years presented an overview of Honor Flight and his Rotary Club’s effort to aid in the program’s sponsorship.

Mathis challenged the attendees to look at their successes in their careers and freedoms as Americans.

“Your success can be tied back to the efforts made 65 years ago,” said Mathis.

James G. Smith, who was a former Army corporal, was Rotarian Catesby ap C. Jones’ guest at Monday’s meeting. Smith is an advocate for veterans and veterans’ affairs and a member of the American Legion Post 20.

He has helped veterans in Dallas County sign up for Honor Flight.

Smith was just a boy during the World War II. He recalls how the nation sacrificed and came together to aid the efforts of the war.

“I still have some ration books with my name on it because things were rationed here to help out the war effort, like gasoline, automobile tires, even sugar and coffee and stuff like that,” said Smith. “You could only get so much of it a month and you had to have these ration books with a coupon even to get it then. It was a complete effort on everyone’s part in WWII and everyone sacrificed.”

The memorial honoring WWII veterans opened to the public on April 29, 2004, and was dedicated one month later. Smith visited the memorial during that time.

According to facts provided by the Honor Flight Network, approximately 1,2000 World War II veterans die each day. Because of that fact, it is the organization’s mission to get as many veterans to the memorial in Washington as possible.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Smith. “We just don’t have an awful lot of time to thank these people for what they did. “

It costs Honor Flight more than $55,000 to charter a flight for about 92 veterans and their guardians, who serve as assistants to the veterans, 143 people in all. Once in Washington, buses are chartered to take the veterans to the Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial and the Vietnam, Korean and Lincoln memorials. Guardians pay $450 for their fare, however, veterans don’t pay a dime, “not even for a Coca Cola,” said Mathis.

Rotarian Art Scroggins accompanied his father, Robert Scroggins, to the memorial. He told the attendees what a wonderful time his father had, the stories the veterans shared with one another and how young people just wanted to tell the veterans ‘thank you.’

“You won’t have to wonder why we support the military if you go there,” said Art Scroggins. “It’s a wonderful thing.”