Winding down is bittersweet for Honor Flight organizers

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A program that takes World War II veterans to our nation's capital is getting closer to its last hurrah. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor flight has only two more flights, one in October and one in November, before the program wraps up.

Uriah Payne of Gulfport said he lied about his age so he could join the Navy during World War II. Now Payne wants to travel to Washington D.C. with his son.

"I've often told my son what happened during World War II. I went in when I was 15 and a half," said Payne. "I want him to see some of the things we did. Let them know what we had to go through in order to make it good for them today."

An orientation was held for ninety veterans and the volunteers who are taking part the Honor flight scheduled to leave October 1. Along with the sights, veterans are excited about the chance to spend with others who've served.

"This is a chance for me now to meet some of the people who've served and did the same things I did. I get to talk with them and reminisce old times," said veteran John R. Murphy.

Veteran Ray Bell said, "I would just love to go on the flight with the rest of the guys that have been doing the same thing. Honor Flight officials said they are doing a lot of reflecting as the program begins to wind down."

"A great team that has worked together for three years now. It's bittersweet to see it end but it is a sense of accomplishment," said Wayne Lennep of Honor Flight. "Our main goal was to say thank you to these veterans whether it's one for 500."

Honor Flight also thanks the community for making these free trips for veterans possible.

Lennep said, "As of today we are about $30,000 short to finish off the whole thing, but everyday we hear a little bit more about somebody who wants to help. It's just amazing to see the Gulf Coast, the good people of Mississippi respond to this program the way they have. They believe in us and they've supported us."

How does the Mississippi Gulf Coast honor flight plan to raise the $30,000? Singer Songwriter Matt Hoggatt and friends have a plan to raise some of that money. Singer songwriters teamed up with Snapper Landing in Gautier to put on a benefit to raise money for Honor Flight. Along with the performances there was also a silent auction, a raffle and barbecue plates for sale. Hoggatt said it's important the Coast thank veterans for their service.

Honor Flight is a great way to do that, but not all of us can go out of town and fly to Washington DC.

"When I heard they needed some money I got to talking to some other people and we all came up with what is a really a great idea," said Hoggatt. "We could not have done it without the Snapper Landing people and without the people donating everything. We're all giving something here today. And hopefully we accomplish our goal of sending these men and women over to Washington D.C."

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