Central Texas vets make trip to national memorial

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by ANDREW CHUNG / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndrewC_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on May 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Updated Friday, May 17 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN -- They came in wheelchairs, ready to board their flight.

Thirty-five Central Texas World War II veterans embarked on a trip Friday to see the national memorial in Washington, D.C. created just for them.

Though many are in wheelchairs, they insisted on standing for the National Anthem, which was sung for them inside a terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Making the trip to the national memorial was Richard Overton, the oldest living veteran in Austin at 107.

"It don't excite me but I'm glad it's happening," he said.

Overton is a man of humility.

"I didn't think I'd ever be seen this much," he said.

Sailor Howard Konetchy served in the North Atlantic. His brother, Ed, took part in the Normandy invasion. At ages 86 and 87, it's a trip worth the wait.

"I'm thrilled to be going down to Washington to see this. I was down to Washington with my kids when the kids were little, but we haven't been back since," said Ed.

"It's really great to be able to do this and to see what these people are doing for all these people. I have been to the memorial before, but it's fun to go with him and to do all the things...we're looking forward to it," added Howard.

Irene Gormley served in the Navy as one of the WAVES - or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. She worked on planes in Pensacola. 

"It was dangerous, I suppose, but we didn't feel that way. We didn't realize it in that day," she said.

Gormley is candid about this opportunity.

"This is the big one. This is wonderful. It is our last big hurrah, I think, for many of us," she said.

Sherb Smiddy served in Pearl Harbor and witnessed the destruction of the U.S.S. Arizona. He is happy to be on this trip. 

"I feel that my participation is minimal compared to what so many of these men have done, facing (the) line of fire, hardship, and wounds. It's quite a privilege and I am very grateful," he said.

With a sendoff from Mayor Lee Leffingwell, and a water cannon salute, 35 members of the Greatest Generation embarked on a journey dedicated to them and their fallen brothers and sisters.

 

Honor Flight Austin Chairman Allen Bergeron says these trips are vitally important because the U.S. is losing its World War II vets at a rate of 600 to 800 per day.

The nonprofit group needs your help on these trips. Click here if you’d like to make a donation.

 

 

 

 

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