This past Thursday was a very special day for two of the many war veterans at Springmoor. Lou Mallia and Fred Wagoner were two of the hundred local World War II veterans on the Triangle Flight of Honor.
Lou was sure the trip would be special, just as his time in the service was special. He said, “Everything about the war was memorable because plans were changing so quickly, and we were so young.” He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and a Good Conduct Medal, but says he wasn’t a war hero like others at Springmoor. He was also quick to say, “I am taking this trip for myself, as well as others at Springmoor who can’t make the trip, for one reason or another.” One of his Springmoor friends, that was to be on the same flight, can’t go.
The Triangle Flight of Honor is a program that flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to tour the WWII memorials constructed in honor of their service. The flight, tour and meals are provided at no cost to the veteran by local sponsors.
Springmoor Activities Director, Leah Willis, said, "We have others that have been accepted to go, or that are considering it.” She has made applications easily accessible in the library.
Leah and the community are planning to honor all World War II veterans at Springmoor. “We will have a special celebration in our auditorium the Friday before Memorial Day 2011, after all the local flights are complete.”
Executive Director, Fred Conner, said, “We all hope this flight will be memorable, but much smoother than Lou’s trip home from service many years ago. His 13 day sea voyage from France had to survive an almost tidal wave; several crew members were injured.”
Rainy and cold weather did move into the D.C. area for the day of the trip, but Fred Wagoner said that didn’t ruin the experience for him. The veterans were sent off with a water canon salute, provided by the RDU Fire Department. After landing at Reagan National Airport, they still managed to visit the WWII Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, as well as other national monuments, see The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and then duck out of the weather for a bit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Twelve hours later, they landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and were greeted with a true hero’s welcome. “They treated us royally,” remarked Fred Wagoner. Bagpipes lead in the steady stream of veterans, as several thousand people with flags, signs, and banners welcomed them home once again.