The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Service News

September 23, 2011

Final Flight of Honor

Albemarle veteran receives honor

Friday, September 23, 2011 — Troy Alexander, 86, of Albemarle, was among 120 World War II veterans to visit the memorial honoring their service during the final Flight of Honor trip Saturday.

“It was an excellent trip and I appreciate Rotary District 7680 for making it possible for me and the other veteran to visit the memorial which I otherwise probably would have never seen,” Alexander said.

The Flight of Honor, which is a service project of Rotary District 7680, honors the lives and service of World War II veterans with trips to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. free of charge for the veteran. Any veteran that served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or as a Merchant Marine during the war was eligible to participate.

The project first started in April 2009 when Rotary District 7680 sent more than 100 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorial which was completed in 2004. The flight, which left Charlotte Saturday, was the seventh trip for the Flight of Honor.

On board were 120 veterans and nearly 60 support staff, including more than 50 Guardians to assist veterans in wheelchairs and provide other assistance.

Vicki Smith, who is a member of the Albemarle Rotary Club, was Alexan-der’s guardian and fellow Rotary member, Steve Surratt, was also on the trip to provide additional assistance.

As the veterans arrived at Charlotte Douglas Inter-national Airport in the morning to depart, they were greeted by an honor guard from the Junior ROTC unit at Marie G. Davis Military and Global Leadership Academy and walked through an avenue of flags held by members of the Patriot Guard.

While waiting at the departure gate, the veterans were entertained by the WBT Briarhoppers bluegrass/country band, who played music of the original WBT Briarhoppers, which was a band that was broadcast by CBS to the G.I.s serving in the European Theater during World War II.

“Every place we went we met people who were there to honor us. There was a huge crowd at Charlotte when we left and a good sized crowd when we landed in Washington. And then when we got back, the crowd seemed to be even larger than before,” Alexander said.

While in Washington, Alexander and the other veterans were greeted by Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, and then they toured the World War II memorial, which Alexander said impressed him.

“It was a very good memorial. There were columns there with each state’s name and there were a lot of quotes from the president. I had thought there would be names of each of the veterans, but when I got there I understood why there wasn’t,” Alexander said.

He added that one thing he was impressed to learn from the memorial was that nearly 16 million people served in uniform during World War II, 400,000 of which lost their lives.

“There are about 4,000 gold stars on one of the walls. Each star represents about 100 soldiers who lost their lives. That was pretty impressive to see,” Alexander said.

After leaving the memorial, the group also visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard before visiting the Marine Corps memorial, which features a recreation of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

“I was really impressed with this memorial. I was in the Marine Corps, so I was thankful I was able to see that memorial,” Alexander said.

Alexander served in the U.S. Marine Corps from February 1943 to May 1956, during which time he had been stationed in several places. He attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. and went to radio school at Jacksonville. He also attended gunner school at Norman, Okla. before being stationed on the Admiralty Islands.

While stationed on the island, Alexander served as a gunner and flew a B-25 to Rabaul where his unit dropped bombs on the Japanese forces.

“Japan had taken the territory, but instead of sending troops, we dropped bombs. We never seemed to meet any Japanese resistance, though,” Alexander said.

As the U.S. prepared to invade Japan, Alexander and his unit were redeployed to the Philippians, where he remained until the end of the war. His unit then flew back to Hawaii where Alexander served as a radioman before being deployed to China for five months.

“I appreciate the opportunity to get to go on the trip and I want to thank Vicki Smith and Steve Surratt for their help,” Alexander said.

John Spencer McAnulty, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, was also supposed to participate in this final Flight of Honor trip, but he passed away Aug. 22.

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