Flight to Washington salutes area World War II veterans

A group of more than a dozen area World War II veterans will return to the Lowcountry today after a special trip to the nation's capital.

Fifteen veterans, including five Marines who fought in the Pacific and a former member of the Women's Army Corps, left Friday from Savannah on a train bound for Washington, D.C..

The group visited the World War II Memorial and other memorials near the National Mall, according to organizers.

The trip was organized by Honor Flight Savannah, a local chapter of the national nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to help aging veterans "visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices," according to the group's web site.

Owen Hand, a board member of Honor Flight Savannah, said helping veterans travel to Washington, D.C. is the least he can do after what they gave the nation.

"These guys, 60 years ago, saved our country," Hand said. "This is the least we can do to thank them, and a large number of them are dying everyday. Being able to do this means a lot to me."

About 1,000 World War II veterans die every day without having seen the $197 million memorial erected in 2004 in their honor, according to Honor Flight.

The memorial consists of 56, 17-foot-tall granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 48 states of 1945, as well as the territories of Hawaii, Alaska, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The weekend's trip was the third for the Savannah chapter, which shares the Beaufort area with Honor Flight Charleston.

In total, the group has helped more than 35 area veterans visit Washington, D.C.

The Savannah chapter has planned upcoming flights to the memorials in September and October, Hand said.