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Area residents catch Honor Flight to D.C.

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POSTED: April 12, 2010 3:01 p.m.
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Edgar Edwards, a former Liberty County School Superintendent, will join 12 other World War II veterans headed to Washington, D.C., next week with Honor Flight Savannah.

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Former Liberty County School Superintendent Edgar Edwards, 83, has been recognized over the years for his dedicated service as an educator. Next week, Edwards and his older brother, Carroll Edwards, 85, of Claxton, 11 fellow World War II veterans and one Korean War veteran will be honored for their
service to their country.
The group will visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight Savannah, the local Honor Flight chapter. Honor Flight pays for veterans’ travel expenses in full.  
“As a traveling vet they cannot spend any money,” said Honor Flight Savannah trip organizer Owen Hand.
These veterans, most in their 80s, will board an Amtrak train at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, April 18, in Savannah and ride the rails to the nation’s capitol. Honor Flight chapters usually transport veterans by plane, but this trip is being taken by train to avoid the complexities of changing planes at Atlanta’s busy airport, trip organizers said.
“We’re going to take Amtrak for the first time and see how that goes,” said Honor Flight Savannah media liaison Carol Megathlin. “We have (volunteer) guardians that go with them.”
Megathlin said a physician also will accompany the elderly veterans to D.C. to monitor their health and well-being.
Honor Flight organizers said there is a sense of urgency now in providing World War II veterans memorial visits. According to www.honorflight.org, 1,000 World War II vets are dying each day.
“We’re looking to serve World War II veterans first,” Hand said. “We are taking a Korean War veteran this trip because he is not a well man. If anyone has a health issue, we move them to the front of the line.”
Edwards said he has visited Washington, D.C., but this will be his first visit to the World War II Memorial. He served from 1944-46 as a Seaman 1st Class aboard the USS Little Rock in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
“It made me a ‘moss-back sailor’ going around Cape Horn,” Edwards said. “I can sit on the deck of any ship in the U.S. Navy without penalty.”
Edwards said he is excited about the trip, and hopes to see former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in D.C.
“I know Bob Dole (helped) start this thing,” he said. “I understand that he greets World War II veterans at the memorial.”
Dole, a former Republican presidential candidate, is also a World War II veteran. He was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Dole was decorated for heroism, receiving two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for heroism during a battle in the Apennine Mountains of Italy.
Edwards said he joined the Navy after high school. He had already planned to enlist when he received his draft card, he said.
After Edwards was discharged from the military, he returned home to coastal Georgia. He attended college and became a teacher and coach. 
“I taught and coached at Bradwell Institute from 1950-57,” Edwards said. “I was principal of Bradwell from 1958-68. For the next 20 years I was school superintendent.”
Edwards expressed gratitude to Honor Flight Savannah and area businesses and individuals who donated funds so aged veterans could make the trip free of charge.
NeSmith Chevrolet in Hinesville is one of the local businesses that donated, he said.
“We feel that it’s important to be involved with our active duty military and our retired military,” NeSmith Chevrolet executive manager Mike Reed said. “We try to support all the different aspects of our community.”
Reed declined to discuss donation amounts as the dealership regularly receives numerous requests for charitable donations from “many worthwhile organizations.”
Hand said Honor Flight Savannah operates solely off donations and through volunteer labor.
“People want to help,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Hand said one woman whose husband survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon sent $500 to Honor Flight Savannah so a local veteran could make the trip.
The Honor Flight trip organizer said getting involved in the organization is his way of thanking veterans for their past sacrifices.
“It (the memorial visit) is quite an emotional thing,” Hand said. “We try to be sensitive to their emotions.”
He added World War II veterans are truly “the greatest generation” and without their service, Americans would not have the freedoms they enjoy today.
“There’s no way we can ever repay them,” Hand said.
 

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