Mike Couick, President & CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
WHEN THE ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF SOUTH CAROLINA went in search of a way to recognize World War II veterans on the 70th anniversary of our nation’s involvement in the conflict, we quickly settled on Honor Flight of South Carolina as the ideal partner.
The Columbia-based nonprofit works closely with a national network (including chapters in Myrtle Beach, Charleston and the Upcountry) to pay tribute to veterans of the “Greatest Generation” by flying them on all-expense-paid trips to Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial. Launched by restaurateur Bill Dukes in 2008, Honor Flight of South Carolina has since flown 11 charters to Washington, D.C., and in the process, hosted more than 1,000 World War II veterans.
On April 11, the organization is scheduled to make its 12th flight, thanks to the support of your local electric cooperative and 18 others across the Palmetto State. It has been our privilege to partner with Honor Flight to recognize our World War II veterans, and we’ll bring you full coverage of the trip in a future issue of South Carolina Living, but today I think it is important to pause and note the service of another group of South Carolinians—the volunteers who make these flights possible.
The logistics of a single Honor Flight are astounding. Chartering the planes and busses is only the beginning. Volunteers must contact and brief veterans, their families and guardians on the details of the flight. They must arrange for food and beverages to be served throughout the day. Then there is the issue of making sure the group can pass easily through security at not one, but two, major airports. The surviving veterans of World War II are all in their 80s and 90s, so a team of doctors and nurses travels with the veterans to make sure everyone stays happy and healthy through the course of a busy day. And countless people are involved in making sure the veterans receive rousing send-offs and receptions at every stop along the way.
Working with Honor Flight of South Carolina to make the April 11 trip a reality, I was impressed by the efficiency of their operation and the dedication of their volunteers, starting with Ron Saxton, the coordinator of the co-op sponsored flight. Others who had a hand in making this flight a success include Grace Rentiers, Norma Curtis, Julie and David Epting, Ray Henry, Jim Kenerson, Amanda Mears, Christine Price, Lisa Smarr, Dr. Ed Moore, Dr. Elaine Roque Nazario, Dr. Tripp Jones, Dr. Hank Powell, Larry Shunkwiler and Gail Sharp-Schreck.
Let’s not forget the men and women who keep Honor Flight of South Carolina operating between trips, including Bill Meyers, volunteer coordinator; Donna Spigner, manager of applications; Terry Pound, Columbia operations manager; Tom Perkins, financial officer; Steve Siegfried, vice chair; Jerry Neely, chairman of fundraising; Bob Price, outreach speaker; Sandra Bryan, telephone coordinator; Giulia Dempsey, Columbia airport coordinator; Perry McLeod, official photographer; Dr. Debra Mitchell-Reedy, Honor Flight physician; Lynne Douglas, Columbia airport contact and Vicki Sweeten, webmaster.
Credit is also due to affiliated organizations that make each flight an event veterans won’t forget, including the Fort Jackson Army Band, the Patriot Guard Riders, the United States Marine Corps League and the South Carolina Military History Club.
Honor Flight has at least two more trips scheduled for this year, one in May and one in November. Additional trips will be scheduled for 2013 as the organization races against time to make sure every eligible World War II veteran has a chance to be honored for his or her service.
To find out how you can help—as a volunteer, by making a donation or by signing up as a guardian to escort veterans on future flights— contact Honor Flight of S.C. at (803) 582-8826 or visit honorflightsc.com.