11/15/10 — Volunteer is seeking flights for Wayne County veterans

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Volunteer is seeking flights for Wayne County veterans

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 15, 2010 1:46 PM

If only for the duration of a brief presentation, members of the Goldsboro City Council will set aside talk of policies and public hearings this evening -- turning their focus, instead, toward a group of heroes that is growing smaller every day.

And by the time Allan Pedersen has said his piece, his hope is that the board will encourage the public to join him in his effort to see Wayne County's World War II veterans honored.

Pedersen, a guardian with the Triangle Flight of Honor, is aiming to identify these particular men and women so the organization he represents can give them a proper thank you -- an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. where they will get to see, among other things, the World War II Memorial.

"We need to do this," he said.

For Pedersen, it started with a television news story -- one that prompted him to volunteer to help, in whatever way he could, in the effort to transport World War II veterans to see the memorial finally erected in their honor.

"It was something I felt I needed to do. I mean, it took us 60 years to build their memorial," he said. "Luckily, I got accepted."

And since that time, he has already been on one of the flights -- an experience he describes as "life-changing."

"When you watched them on the airplane, they were like a bunch of schoolkids," Pedersen said. "One of the veterans said, 'I've never been hugged so many times in my life.'"

But the trip was about more than hugs from guardians and those family members who met up with them as they toured several D.C. memorials.

"To watch schoolchildren come up and shake their hands or ask to hear stories, it was just great," he said. "And when we were at the museum, I was looking at a photograph of the USS Missouri and one of the guys pointed and said, "Here was the gun I was on.' It made you just stop and think."

There are currently two upcoming flights that have seats reserved for those Wayne residents who fought in World War II -- the first, in April, has 20 seats for those from Wayne, and the second, in May, will have at least 10.

But Pedersen said he will work to ensure any who contact him get a chance to take the trip.

Those who served -- or those who would like to nominate a family member, friend or hero -- are asked to contact Pedersen at 734-5808.

And if they do, their guardian said he is certain each will walk away from the Triangle Flight of Honor experience feeling truly cherished by the nation all who survived World War II seemed willing to die defending.

"A lot of tears were shed," Pedersen said of the flight he recently took. "And all those veterans were treated first class."