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Honor Flight guardians ensure veterans safety
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Army Reserve Ambassador and Honor Flight Savannah board member Luis Carreras, right, attended a guardian training session with World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veteran, Staff Sgt. (retired) Clinton Henry of Hinesville. - photo by Denise Etheridge

‘Greatest generation’ to receive departure ceremony

Honor Flight Savannah’s next trip is scheduled for April 8-10. Veterans and guardians will depart from the Amtrak station in Savannah at 8:03 p.m. Friday, April 8.
They will be given a proper send-off by Bradwell Institute JROTC cadets, marines from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in Beaufort, S.C., and soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart.

"Once you team up with your veteran, that’s where your responsibility for their safety kicks in," Honor Flight Savannah board member Marian Spears told volunteers Saturday. "You go where they go. You need to stay within reach or within sight of your veterans."

Honor Flight Savannah held a guardian training session at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler to prepare volunteers for safeguarding the elderly military veterans they will escort on upcoming trips to Washington, D.C. The next trip is scheduled for April 8-10. The local chapter serves the coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina.

The training was facilitated by Honor Flight Savannah founder Larry Spears and his wife, Marian Spears, along with chapter vice president Ed Wexler. Army Reserve Ambassador and Honor Flight Savannah board member Luis Carreras of Hinesville also attended the training.

Honor Flight volunteers will escort veterans, most in their 80s, to visit the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials at the nation’s capital.

The next group of veterans is traveling by train rather than by plane because air fare is expensive due to rising oil prices, Carreras said.

Honor Flight guardians pay their travel expenses out-of-pocket. Their volunteer service is tax deductible. The veterans’ expenses are paid in full by the organization.

"Veterans don’t pay for anything on this trip, not even a Coke," Marian Spears said.

"We’ve never lost a veteran," Larry Spears said.

Marian Spears told guardians they will help conduct a head count every time the group disembarks from or gets onto a train or bus during the Honor Flight tour. Guardians will wear red polo shirts, and veterans will wear grey Honor Flight T-shirts as well as ID tags during the trip, Spears said.

The lead guardian and bus captain instructed new guardians about the proper use of wheelchairs, what to pack for themselves and their guardians, such as light jackets and lap blankets. She also told guardians to ensure their veterans bring any necessary medications with them and learn when and how their veterans are supposed to take their prescribed medications.

Spears said a physician, nurses and medics also travel on Honor Flight trips. She said all veterans’ medical needs are accommodated, such as ensuring the packing and storing of insulin for diabetic veterans.

"Also make sure they have an extra pair of eyeglasses or an extra set of batteries if they wear hearing aids," she instructed.

Spears told volunteers the chapter would provide veterans meals and snacks, and a cooler filled with water and juice would also be available on the trip.

The Spears encouraged guardians to meet with their veterans prior to the trip, and to "get to know" their veterans while traveling to Washington, D.C.

"Let them share their stories," Marian Spears said. "Also, let them know what to expect."

Some of the guardians at the training were family members of the veterans slated to participate in upcoming Honor Flight trips. Other volunteers simply want to honor veterans’ service to the United States.

"I wanted to do this for the veterans because of what they did for us," Chandra Capps of St. Simons said. Capps said her father, the late Chandler Capps of Brunswick, fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the 28th Infantry.

"He passed away a year ago," Capps said.

For more information, go to or call 876-4331.


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