Honor Flight Conyers brings WWII veterans to see their memorial - CBS46 News

Honor Flight Conyers brings WWII veterans to see their memorial in our nations capitol

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They are part of the Greatest Generation. The men and women who served our country in World War II.

Their accomplishments are great, and as the population began to dwindle, non-profit Honor Flight formed to take those veterans to see the memorials dedicated to their efforts in our nations capitol.

CBS Atlanta's Jennifer Mayerle traveled with Honor Flight Conyers, and local WWII veterans and their guardians. It was a journey that took many of the veterans back to their days in the service.

"It just makes me thankful, grateful that there are people here that care," James Compton of U.S. Air Corps said. 

"Overwhelming really, that's about the best way I can describe it," William Dearing, Jr. of the U.S. Army said.

The WWII veterans settled in on a bus for a day designed to honor them. For many, it's their first time seeing a memorial dedicated to their war efforts and the efforts of those who served with them.

"It brought back one heck of a lot of memories," Dearing said.

"I was at Normandy on D-Day. It was our first combat. On the beaches down we were just lying there dumbfounded, we didn't know what to do," Jack Hill of the U.S. Army said. 

The freedom wall at the WWII memorial holds 4048 stars. Each represents 100 American soldiers who died during the war or remain missing. The ones who survived remain humble.

"The real heroes are represented with those stars over there," Compton said.

Each veteran is accompanied by a guardian during their 'Tour of Honor.' Some are friends from church. Others are family, as in the case of Freeman Barber and his son Allen.

"It's a big part of his life and it's very emotional," Allen Barber said.

"To come here is a trip, trip and a half. To have him come along with me is great because when I go home then I can talk to him," Freeman Barber of the U.S. Army said. 

"I rarely speak about it. In the Air Force you didn't see anybody. We just dropped the bombs and left. Iwo Jima, I'm just amazed by the expressions on their faces," Gabriel Malafronte of the U.S. Air Corp said. 

"Everybody doesn't quite understand what it stands, for but being an ex-marine I can," Marine Perry Pugh said, as he looked at the Iwo Jima memorial.

The aging veterans, many of them 90 and older, understand this journey back in time with comrades is a rare gift.

At 101, nearing 102, Lamar Wallace is sharp and spry. The only time he sat down was to reflect back.

"Five years in the service, I went in Valentine's day 1941. I was 28 years old and they knew the war was coming, and it did," Wallace of the U.S. Army said.

At his age, Wallace realizes their collective stories may soon no longer be told, at least in person.

"They're just great, every one of them. And we don't see many of them anymore. Not sure if you realized that or not, we're getting fewer and fewer," Wallace said.

"Everyone's got a story and they should be able to tell it," Barber said.

The U.S. Veterans Administration estimates we lose about 600 WWII veterans a day.

Honor Flight Conyers is working to allow as many to see their memorial in our nations capitol free of charge. That's their mission.

Click here for information on how you can help honor veterans through Honor Flight.

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