COLUMBIA, SC – August 5, 2008 – Bill Dukes, a longtime Columbia area business and civic leader, announced today the formation of Honor Flight South Carolina, a local organization created to give World War II veterans in our community the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to visit the World War II memorial dedicated to honoring their service and sacrifice.
The idea came about as a result of a family reunion the Dukes family held in Washington in June to give Bill’s dad a chance to see the memorial. Young Sergeant William E. Dukes had fought for his country more than 60 years ago and earned the Purple Heart for his wounds suffered. On returning to Columbia, Bill made a commitment to see what he could do to provide an opportunity for other World War II veterans in our community to see THEIR memorial. He was familiar with an organization that could help, and contacted them for their assistance in creating Honor Flight South Carolina.” That organization has now been established. The Honorary Chairs for the organization are Lt Governor Andre Bauer of South Carolina, who heads the SC Office of Aging, and Colonel (Ret) Charles Murray, a WWll Veteran and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor who lives in Columbia.
Research has determined that there are about 3,000,000 WWII veterans alive today, and they are dying at the rate of about 1,500 a day. Even at that rate, which is accelerating as they age, virtually all of our distinguished veterans will leave us within the next 10 years. Before that happens, this group wants to make sure that WWII veterans in our community have the opportunity to see and experience the memorial as Bill’s father did. So many of these people have physical and financial limitations that need to be addressed and Honor Flight South Carolina will help in that regard. The group plans to provide a one-day charter flight to Washington for veterans with physical or financial limitations that have never seen the memorial. They will travel as honored guests, with the inaugural flight scheduled for Saturday, November 15, 2008.
This first flight will accommodate 100 veterans at no charge, plus 35 guardians who will accompany, assist, and escort these distinguished veterans throughout the day. All expenses for what they hope will be a series of flights will be raised through the contributions of business and civic leaders, businesses and non-profit organizations, and other committed donors, as well as the guardians themselves. The number of flights arranged will depend on the generosity of our community. Bill Dukes feels absolutely confident that people will do whatever it takes to show our gratitude and appreciation to the veterans from this area who fought and sacrificed for us. He went on to add, “It is the least we can do for them now. If you could have stood at my side with my father, as he silently viewed the monument, alone in his thoughts, you would have seen just how powerful a moment this can be for our World War II veterans”.
A website has been established at www.honorflightsc.com, where people can go to learn more about the organization and how they can be a part of this living tribute to these people to whom we owe so much. Interested individuals can also contact either Bill Dukes at 803-345-8978, email: [email protected] or Marvin Chernoff at 803-261-7646, email: [email protected].