Honor Flight volunteers recognized for helping veterans

The Georgia Patriot Guard Riders were one of the recipients of a folded flag presented last week by Honor Flight Fayette at a reception held for honor flight participants at Fayette Senior Services in Fayetteville. The Patriot Guard Riders were among the nearly 1,000 volunteers making the seven honor flights possible, said Honor Flight Fayette’s Gail Sparrow. Photo/Ben Nelms.

It was an event that paid tribute to the men and women whose efforts more than six decades ago conquered a global threat. World War II veterans from Fayette, Coweta and other counties across the area were the guests Nov. 17 at a reception honoring all the participants in the seven Honor Flight Fayette trips to Washington, D.C., that began in 2007.

Veterans and their families last week met at Fayette Senior Services and were joined by many of the volunteers that made the flights possible.

The participants on each flight received an escort to Hartsfield airport by local law enforcement and the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group, while in flight they read “V-mail” letters written specifically to each one by local students and once in Washington they visited the World War II memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

The reception last week was a tribute to the entire group of veterans, the risks they took and their service to their nation. The reception was also a time to honor some of the 1,000 volunteers in attendance whose efforts made the flights possible.

Honor Flight Fayette’s Gail Sparrow led the event, recalling the actions and sacrifices made by the veterans and the nature of the trips to the nation’s capital.

Also at the reception, Georgia Magazine editor Ann Orowski presented copies of the upcoming edition that features photos and a four-page story, “Thank a veteran,” on the honor flight and the veterans. Orowski brought 300 copies of the magazine so that each veteran could have a keepsake of the occasion.

The magazine’s cover featured Loganville resident Marvin Russell, a B-17 gunner who was shot down and spent 13 months in Stalag 17-B in Austria.

The reception was also the occasion to present folded flags to the Georgia Patriot Guard Riders for their continuous help and support and to SSgt. Joshua Romans who coordinated the efforts of the soldiers accompanying the honor flight veterans in Washington.

Currently involved in training, the flag was accepted by Nancy Romans, Joshua’s mother. A third flag will be presented later to a local Boy Scout troop.

The reception concluded with the presentation of a video that had been compiled from footage and still photos of the honor flights and from World War II photographs and music.

There was another guest at the reception. But this guest never entered the room. Assembled outside in front of the seniors center just before the reception began, the Honor Flight participants, their families and the volunteers could only greet this momentary guest with a glance upward to the heavens.

For some on the ground the sight of what they saw was new. For others, the World War II veterans, that upward glance provided a trek back in time. Provided by the Commemorative Air Force and having made a trek of its own from its base in Texas, a B-17 bomber spanned space and time as it roared overhead, trailed to the south and came in again from the west.

The World War II veterans assembled last week at the senior center in Fayetteville, as well as other guests, watched the old warbird roar by, shaking the earth once more as it did more than six decades ago during a life and death struggle for freedom.