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Veterans And Their Stories Take Off With San Diego Honor Flight

Aired 5/24/13 on KPBS News.

More than 90 veterans took off for Washington D.C. today with San Diego Honor Flight to mark Memorial Day.

— Dozens of San Diego veterans will spend Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C., with help from the non-profit group Honor Flight San Diego. Today an Honor Flight took off from the San Diego International Airport with 90 veterans and their guardians on board. The passengers included KPBS News Editor Tom Fudge and his 88-year-old father, Jim, who served in the Navy during WWII.

“Well, I think it’s quite an honor, and it’s a very nice thing to do for us old ducks.” Jim Fudge

“Well, I think it’s quite an honor, and it’s a very nice thing to do for us old ducks,” the senior Fudge said.

Honor Flight San Diego is part of a nationwide network, conceived by a retired Air Force captain, who wanted to help veterans visit the WWII Memorial. For many elderly vets, the trip is out of financial reach, so the Honor Flight Network raises money to pay for it.

The itinerary is fast paced. The veterans arrive in Washington tonight, and tomorrow they’ll get a whirlwind tour of the capitol’s landmarks, including the WWII Memorial. On Sunday morning, they board another plane to come home.

“Believe it or not, the ones that are the most tired are the guardians. The veterans are always in better shape than the guardians, including me!” said Jeff Hall, the vice chair of Honor Flight San Diego. This is his seventh flight.

“I’m former Army, so I’m a veteran, but I do it really to honor my grandfathers who were both World War II veterans,” he said.

Hall said he’s taken the trip again and again partly to hear the vets’ stories.

Tom Fudge shared one of his father’s stories with KPBS videographer Nic McVicker.

“He was sleeping in his bunk and a German torpedo hit the ship and knocked him out of his bunk, and knocked everybody else out of their beds,” he said. “But it was a dud. And if it hadn’t been a dud, well I guess he wouldn’t be going on Honor Flight right now.”

The Honor Flight Network currently focuses on WWII vets. The organization says they are dying at a rate of about 800 a day. Honor Flight’s goal is to help every veteran visit his or her memorial, so eventually the focus will shift to the Korean War, Vietnam and the wars in the Middle East. Honor Flight is already taking applications from terminally ill veterans of those wars.

The Honor Flight is scheduled to return Sunday at 2 p.m. The public is encouraged to come to the USO Center at Lindbergh Field’s Terminal 1 to welcome them home.

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