War vets take flight to DC, honored by CSA

September 19, 2019 - 8:18 am
Veterans from Honor Flight Savannah met with Gen. James C. McConville

US Army


By Thomas Brading, Army News Service

WASHINGTON -- It was 1943; the United States was fighting in World War II and 18-year-old Hilton Champaign was ready to serve his country.

So, the first chance he got, he left his job making deliveries at the family grocery store to enlist in the Army as a truck driver. The Soldier would go on to be a sergeant in the Army Air Corps, serving in the Atlantic Campaign.

By the time Hilton was shipped off to Italy, his older brother Marsden -- known to many as "Mars" -- was already in a Marine uniform, thousands of miles from their family home in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, serving in the Pacific as a radar technician.

Eventually the war ended and even as decades passed, the brothers never talked about "the war," Mars said. They just did their job and they went home.

In fact, they never knew what each other did during the war, until last week, after striking up a conversation on a charter bus.


The Champaign brothers are just two examples of the roughly 25 veterans from WWII, the Korean- and Vietnam wars who visited Washington, D.C. over the weekend, during an Honor Flight from the Savannah, Georgia region.

Since 2009, Honor Flight Savannah -- a non-profit organization giving veterans a chance to see the nation's capital -- has brought more than 1,250 veterans to Washington, D.C.

The Honor Flight network of 130 organizations has brought more than 163,000 vets to D.C. since 2005.

While in D.C., attendees were able to see monuments built in honor of the wars they fought in, as well as other national memorials, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

To kick off their busy weekend, they started at the World War II Memorial, where the veterans, their escorts, and event organizers were welcomed by Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff.

"(They ) are often called 'the greatest generation,'" McConville said, addressing the World War II veterans. "When our country was attacked, (they) raised your right hand and said 'send me."

"They fought across Europe; they fought across the Pacific," he added. "And, because of their heroism, the last 75 years has preserved the world order of freedom."

McConville continued by welcoming Korean and Vietnam War veterans, who were also in attendance.

"It was a thrill" to talk with the general, said Larry Spears, a representative of Honor Flight Savannah. McConville stayed after his initial address to meet with veterans and their escorts. He added that the day was "about honoring them."

For Mars, however, there was one person left to honor -- his wife, who was unable to attend the trip. But, she was in his thoughts, especially while he reflected on life during WWII.

"During the war, she was at home raising our children," he said, with tears in his eyes. "Her service was just as important. She deserves to be honored, too."

Honor Flight Savannah's market includes Coastal Georgia and South Carolina's Low Country.

"Every generation has its heroes, and you're seeing heroes in front of us," McConville said, addressing the veterans. "This is why the United States is the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

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