The History of Honor Flight Savannah
Larry P. Spears, LT, USN (retired), Marian Baxley Spears, along with local area veterans, Tim Bulick, Luis Carreras, and Paul Green establish Honor Flight Savannah, Inc. in 2008. Quickly they began to plan a program designed to take World War II Veterans from southeast Georgia to Washington, D.C. to see the memorial dedicated to their service at no cost to them.
In early of 2009, Honor Flight Savannah, Inc. expanded to include the Lowcountry of South Carolina and invited members of that community to join the Board of Directors. The official catchment area grew and officially covered 37 counties in South Carolina and Georgia.
With the help of local veteran groups, businesses, civic associations, and other like-minded organizations, our inaugural flight took place October 24, 2009.
Veterans representing Georgia on the first trip were Jerome Bath, Bill Boney, and E.W. Daniel. Ray Kearns, Lawrence Laughlin, and James Shanklin comprised the veterans from South Carolina.
The six veterans and their well-wishing family members and friends met their Guardians and other support personnel at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport at 4:15 AM on the morning of their departure. Active duty personnel from local military installations, volunteers from the airport USO, local media, and
many more well-wishers also gathered to send everyone off on a joyous trip.
At 5:30 AM the flight left for Charlotte, N.C., connecting to Baltimore-Washington International Airport for a day filled with events and activities to both recognize and honor the six veterans for their selfless service to our country.
Upon arrival in Baltimore, military personnel, Honor Flight volunteers, and many well-wishers greeted our veterans at the gate. Following this reception, our group boarded a charter bus to begin a tour of a lifetime throughout the many memorials and sights of Washington, D.C.
At every stop, from Charlotte to Baltimore, and at each memorial site the heroes were greeted with applause, saluted, and honored by many grateful Americans, both in and out of uniform.
The stops and sights the veterans enjoyed during the day included the WWII Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery where they witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Follow on stops included the Iwo-Jima, Air Force, and Navy Museum Memorials, the Korean War and Vietnam Veteran Memorials, as well as the newest memorial, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Upon completion of the tours, everyone enjoyed a refreshing dinner before boarding our flight home. Arriving back in Savannah just before midnight after a long, but exhilarating day, the travelers met a crowd of family, friends, active duty military personnel, members of local and national legislative bodies, and many other well-wishers.
Memories for a lifetime are the end product for the Veterans and an excellent source of community pride for those who assisted in this great achievement.
Since 2009 our organization has evolved into a Hub the focuses on taking WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War Veterans to Washington D.C. free of charge to the veteran. Priority is giving to veterans of the earliest conflicts or life-threatening medical conditions. We host two (2) annual Deluxe Tour Bus trips a year with up to 25 Veterans each paired with a trained guardian. The "flights" depart Savannah, GA on a Friday morning to Washington D.C. returning the following Sunday evening. Each tour includes hotel accommodations, meals, snacks, t-shirts and other amenities. Our support team for each trip also includes physicians and medical support. Each trip has special surprises for the veterans, contains the Flags of Our Heroes Ceremony, and a private dinner often with a special guest speaker. In addition to our Washington D.C. trips, we periodically grant individual last wishes to veterans when the opportunity presents itself. These events are a unique and rare blessing we are thankful to have the chance to plan and memories we will never forget.
Lastly, Honor Flight Savannah is an official Honor Flight National Hub and works with Honor Flight National for special needs requests. We are always here to help make wishes come true. Honor Flight National offers three programs for veterans with limited time due to life-threatening medical conditions, or insufficient travel options from where they live to visit their memorials in Washington D.C. Information and applications for these programs are available on Honor Flight National's website. These programs include Honor Flight Solo Program, Southwest LoneEagle Program, and Southwest Their Last Chance Program. Please visit Honor Flight National's website for information and do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you or a veteran you know that qualifies for one of these programs.