Veteran Herb Savage takes Honor Flight
It was a moving day on Saturday when Herb Savage of Marco Island and 54 other Southwest World War II veterans flew to Washington, D.C. to view their memorial on the Honor Flight.
Honor Flight organizers say the sole purpose of Honor Flights is straightforward and pure spirited: To transport World War II Veterans to Washington, D.C. to be honored at their memorial.
With Savage was his volunteer "Guardian" Jim Prange. Prange's daughter Amber also went as a volunteer. She was partnered with veteran Jack Shea of Sarasota.
Honor Flight was conceived by Earl Morris, a physician assistant and Retired Air Force captain. He worked in a small Veterans Clinic in Springfield, Ohio. In May, 2004 the World War II Memorial was completed in Washington. Most of the veterans Morris worked with as patients expressed interest, but for a myriad or reasons, including financial, they didn't expect to see it.
In January, 2005, Morris, a private pilot, spoke to aero clubs based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio, to help create a program to financially support or volunteer to fly veterans to the Memorial.
After he spoke, 11 pilots, who had never met his patients, volunteered and Honor Flight was born. It continues through fundraising and volunteers taking part as "Guardians" to be with the veterans, flying with them and serving as escorts to the Memorial and other patriotic locations.
The Marco Island Sunrise Rotary Club made a $1,500 donation to Honor Flight to cover the costs for Savage and the Pranges, Jim Prange said.
"They call it an Honor Flight (for the veterans), but the honor was all ours," Jim Prange said.
Amber Prange said, "This experience will definitely be one of the most treasured of my life. I had the opportunity to express a small token of love, admiration and appreciation to a phenomenal generation of brave men and women whose service and sacrifice are without compare. I also made a new friend, Jack, who has blessed my life so much in such a short time and whose friendship I will love and cherish for the rest of my life."
Members of Savage's family joined him in Washington, D.C. Daughter, Charlene Butler, and son Herb Savage II, wife, Kimberly and their son Herb III, spent the day.
Savage, who served in Italy during World War II, said it was a very special time to experience the day with his family.
Prange said at Southwest Florida International Airport and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. fire trucks formed around the veterans' plane, with their lights on. As the plane went between the fire trucks their water hoses sprayed in an arc over the plane in salute.
As the veterans came into the terminal they were greeted by 12 soldiers, standing at attention and a bagpiper was playing.
There arrival was announced in the airport.
"There must have been 600 people at Gate 4 and they all applauded," Prange said. "There was a lot of handshaking, people thanking the veterans for their service and some tears shed by the veterans."
It was the perfect time for Savage.
"Can I have your attention," he said, and then led everyone in God Bless America.
A moving experience for all was when veterans visited Arlington Cemetery and viewed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Savage said.
"The World War II Memorial, the Iwo Jima Monument, the Washington Monument, it was all very special," Savage
said. "I thought the Iwo Jima Monument was phenomenally large."
On its website, Honor Flight said in the future it will also pay tribute to other heroes who have served in Korean and Vietnam Wars, then followed by veterans of more current wars.
For more information the Southwest Florida Honor Flight, Inc. mailing address is PO Box 494488, Port Charlotte, FL 33949, or call 941-889-8119, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.