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WW II veterans invited to take Honor Flight to nation's capital

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By Jenny Arnold

KERSHAW – World War II veterans from the Kershaw area, or Lancaster and Kershaw counties, will have the opportunity to see the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 21.

But months before the trip, local World War II veterans will be recognized at a kick-off dinner. The dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kershaw First Baptist Church ministry center, 210 N. Matson St.

Organizers Al Poston and the Rev. Bryant Fersner, both of Kershaw, hope the meal will bring together veterans, those who wish to help with the flight and those wishing to help fund the day-long trip.

A Pee Dee-style chicken bog will be served.

Guests for the event will be retired Maj. Gen. Steve Siegfried, longtime WIS-TV personality Joe Pinner and Bill Dukes, who serves as chairman of Honor Flights of South Carolina.

The meal is free to all veterans and no sign-up is needed.

Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing World War II veterans to the World War II memorial in Washington. The average age of these veterans is 85, and many of them have health problems, making travel difficult, Fersner said.

The Honor Flight provides a medical team to travel with the veterans by air, eliminating the need for a long bus trip and overnight stays.

The Honor Flight will leave on U.S. Air Charter from Columbia and arrive at Reagan National Airport in Washington. The veterans will travel by motor coach to the Memorial Mall area and visit the Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln and Iwo Jima memorials.

The veterans will then spend about two hours at the World War II memorial. Lunch will be provided at the South Carolina pillar. There will also be a visit to Arlington Cemetery and a stop at the Tomb of the Unknowns, where travelers will see the changing of the guard. Wheelchairs will be provided for veterans who may have difficulty walking.

After the day’s activities, the veterans and their guardians will return home that night.

“We want as many who are medically able to go with us,” Fersner said. “We’re going to get them there safely.”

Poston said he was inspired to help organize an honor flight for local veterans or those who have ties to Kershaw or Lancaster counties after going to the Vietnam memorial years ago with a sergeant major.

“To witness his reaction to the memorial was an honor,” Poston said. “I remember the humbling feeling it was to witness that.”

Fersner’s father, the late Bryant D. Fersner Sr., was a World War II veteran.

As a pastor, Fersner comes into contact with many veterans and remembers seeing a sign on a wall at a Veterans Administration hospital that read, “Here you see the price of freedom.”

Fersner said 400,000 American soldiers never returned from World War II.

Because many of the surviving veterans are in failing health, it was important to arrange an Honor Flight, Fersner said.

“Time is of the essence,” he said.

For details on the Kershaw-area Honor Flight, or to fill out an application for a veteran, call Fersner at (803) 475-3721 or Poston at (803) 475-3778.

For more about the Honor Flight Network, go to www.honorflight.org.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jarnold@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151