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Group tells Rotarians of effort to help vets

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POSTED: December 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

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A presentation given Tuesday by Tony Fleeger, Honor Flight’s Savannah chairman, left local Rotarians with heavy hearts, teary eyes and the inspiration to help a special group of veterans.
Honor Flight is a volunteer-based national organization dedicated to providing all remaining World War II veterans with an expense-free trip to Washington, D.C., to see memorials constructed in their honor.
 Earle Morse, a retired Air Force captain, started Honor Flight in 2005 in Springfield, Ohio, when he took a small group of veterans on private planes to see the memorials. The program is now in 34 states across the country.
According to Fleeger, close to 18,000 WWII veterans have been able to see the memorials since Honor Flight started.
Fleeger and three other Savannah branch board members came to show Liberty County community leaders the value and importance of giving veterans this chance as soon as possible.
“WWII veterans are passing away at rate of about 1,200 to 1,500 a day,” Fleeger said of the need to act fast.
“In another five to 10 years, they’ll all be gone,” said Morse in a video clip.  “And I know how much it means to them to be recognized.”
Fleeger said he, Morse and numerous other volunteers give their time and money because they believe America owes these men  and women recognition and thanks for their service.
“If it wasn’t for them, where would our country be?” Fleeger said.
Honor Flight trips include a roundtrip ticket to Washington, lunch, dinner, shuttle services and anything else participants might need at no cost to the veteran.
“It’s all taken care of,” said Fleeger. “That’s the least we can do for our heroes.”
While right now Fleeger said their priority remains with WWII veterans, in a few years when they’ve passed on, Honor Flight will focus on taking veterans of more recent wars to their respective memorials. However, he said if a veteran is suffering from a life-threatening illness or injury, they’ll move to the top of the list.
Fleeger said because the program is solely funded through donations, they need the community’s help in locating veterans, recruiting volunteers, planning logistics, raising funds, and publicizing the organization.
 

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