Memorial Flight ready to make memories
Ex-Army nurse flying World War II veterans to national memorial
By EUGENE L. TINKLEPAUGH
The passenger list is full for the charter plane that will transport eastern North Carolina veterans to Washington, D.C.
The flight was organized by retired Army Capt. Pam Morgan, a Tarboro native, who wanted to give back to the “greatest generation” by taking a day trip with World War II veterans.
The group will tour Washington, D.C., with the World War II Memorial as the highlight of the excursion.
The charter flight, being called Memorial Flight, takes off tomorrow.
According to Morgan, the list of veterans grew in the past two weeks from 90 to 100, with volunteers bringing the total number of passengers to 148, the plane’s capacity.
The volunteers, many of them veterans’ spouses or other family members are paying $250 each to accompany and assist veterans on the tour.
Morgan’s goal was to take 100 World War II veterans on the Memorial Flight; she made her goal.
Morgan said she is short of the $30,000 needed to pay for the trip, but she will not cancel the flight because the fundraising goal has not been met.
She continues to seek donations from individuals and businesses to help fund the flight. A $300 donation sponsors a veteran’s expenses to take the day trip.
More than a dozen Beaufort County veterans are part of the group making the trip.
Jack Pyburn, 80, and one of the youngest vets on the manifest, said he found out about the flight from Lynn Lewis, Washington’s tourism-development director.
The Navy veteran and Washington native recruited about 13 veterans from the area, and then he persuaded three volunteers to sign up.
Pyburn began contacting other veterans who had signed up for the Memorial Flight to build some preflight camaraderie.
Pyburn said that when he talked with fellow Navy veteran Milton Cox, who’s turning 90, “I asked him if he’s in good health, and he said, ‘Yeah, I cut my own wood.’”
The plane departs the Pitt-Greenville Airport at 9 a.m. and arrives at Reagan International Airport just outside Washington, D.C., an hour to an hour and a half later.
Following a box lunch at 11:45 a.m., the veterans will tour the mall area in D.C. where the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials are located.
The tour also has stops that include Arlington National Cemetery, the Navy Museum and the National Air and Space Museum. The veterans choose which places they will visit.
The itinerary has the return flight to Greenville arriving about 8 p.m.
When the World War II Memorial was erected, many of that war’s veterans were 77 years old at the youngest, which made it difficult for many of those in whose honor the memorial was built to visit it.
Morgan was inspired to arrange the visit by similar trips — Honor Flight, HonorAir and Hero Flight — arranged by other organizations.
HonorAir, led by Jeff Miller of Hendersonville, has flown over 300 World War II veterans from the western part of the state to the nation’s capital.
Morgan saw a story about that trip on the CBS show “Sunday Morning” and attended a summit in Washington, D.C., in February to learn how to make a similar trip happen.
The 37-year-old Edgecombe County nurse spent 12 years as an Army Nurse Corps officer and cared for many World War II veterans during that time.
Donations to fund the trip are still being accepted through the Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum. To make a donation, make checks payable to the museum with “Memorial Flight” noted in the memo line and mail to: Memorial Flight, P.O. Box 1235, Tarboro, NC 27886.
For more information, visit the Memorial Flight Web site at www.memorialflight.org.