Honor Flight takes WWII vets to D.C.
A Prescott World War II veteran said his favorite memory during an Honor Flight he took this fall was visiting the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
"I enjoyed the World War II memorial better than anything else," said Bill Swift, who runs Red Lamp Antiques on Cortez Street in downtown Prescott with his friend Robert Dale Coffey.
Coffey, a World War II Navy veteran who also went on the trip, said he enjoyed talking with other veterans late into the night in the lobby of their hotel.
Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that provides the estimated cost of $750 to fly and lodge a veteran going to Washington, D.C., through community donations and fundraisers, so that the trip is free for veterans.
World War II veterans and those with terminal illnesses have top priority, and more than 350 veterans are on the waiting list, said Susan Howe, director of Honor Flight of Northern Arizona.
As Swift and Coffey leafed through a stack of photos of their trip, they talked about how their group of World War II veterans were honored everywhere they went, from an honor guard in Phoenix that accompanied them to the airport, to people thanking them for their service throughout the trip, to fire engines shooting water in arcs over their plane to welcome them home back at Sky Harbor.
Swift, who went to radio school but was later assigned to Navy stores issuing clothing, had never visited Washington, D.C., before, although he drove through it once to catch a ship to Europe.
Swift said the 46 veterans and their volunteer chaperones were busy from the moment they landed in D.C. until they left. The volunteers helped the veterans prepare for the flight and paid for their own way, said Howe.
While they were in D.C., the veterans and volunteers went to the World War II Memorial for a few hours and met with a congressional representative, then toured the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Navy Memorial, the Iwo Jima (Marine) Memorial, the Capitol Building and Arlington National Cemetery.
"It was a wonderful trip," said Coffey, who worked as an operating room technician in the Navy Hospital Corps during World War II.
Swift and Coffey said they have a jar by the cash register of their store that they hope to fill with donations for other veterans to go on an Honor Flight.
For more information on Honor Flight, call (928) 778-9421 or visit www.HonorFlightNAz.org.