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World War II vet enjoys trip on ‘Honor Flight’

Published 6:25am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Special to The Post-Searchlight

Fredrick Smallwood, a World War II veteran and resident of Willow Ridge, in Bainbridge, was one of 79 veterans aboard a Boeing 737 Honor Flight on May 11 from Tallahassee, Fla., to Washington, D.C. He was accompanied by his grandson, Clay Cooper of Gallatin, Tenn.

Honor Flights make it possible for WWII veterans to travel for one day to Washington D.C to see the WWII Memorial, as well as other memorials in the city.

Honor Flights are the idea of Earl Morse, a captain in the U.S. Army working in a VA Hospital in Ohio. His father had been a bomber pilot during WWII and he is also a pilot. While working with WWII veterans in the hospital, he kept hearing some of them say, “The memorial is a wonderful idea, but we will never be able to visit it.” This bothered him, so he and a couple of his friends, also pilots who owned their own planes, took 12 veterans to Washington on the first Honor Flight. Since then it has evolved to 121 hubs in 41 states and carried over 100,000 veterans free of charge. The flights are all paid for by corporate and private donations.

There were Honor Flights from Idaho, New York, Tennessee and West Virginia in Washington on the same day Smallwood was there.

He and his fellow passengers arrived at the Tallahassee airport at 5 a.m., where they were greeted, checked in, given a cap and a T-shirt with veteran of WWII on them and a schedule of the day. A large crowd of friends were present and formed two lines, as everyone boarded and kept clapping and repeating, “Thanks for your service.” The flight took one hour and 50 minutes and landed in Baltimore, Md. Once again they were greeted with lines of clapping service men who called out, “Thanks for your service.”

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They were loaded onto buses and escorted into the city in a convoy led and trailed by parks service police cars with lights and sirens all the way. They drove past the Capitol, Supreme Court Building, Treasury Building, Smithsonian Buildings and Washington Monument before reaching their destination — the WWII Memorial. There they had a group photo taken.

Smallwood’s grandson pushed him around in a wheelchair so he could see more events faster.

The memorial is designed with the north gate covering the European theater and the south gate covers the Pacific Theater, with a large fountain and reflecting pool in the center. On each side of the gates are engraved quotations from Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, General Eisenhower, General McArthur, General Marshall and others. Around the perimeter are 56 columns, each representing the 48 states, District of Columbia and eight territories, as they existed during the war.

A black granite Wall of Remembrance with 4048 gold stars represents the over 400,000 killed during the war.

Smallwood was also interviewed by a young lady who asked if he would answer some questions about his service for a school project she was doing. Meanwhile, his grandson spoke with the girl’s teacher and told him Smallwood had written an account of his experiences and he gave a copy to the teacher.

The group also was able to see the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial and the Women’s memorial. While at the Vietnam Memorial, he found the name of Joseph T. Laslie Jr., an Attapulgus resident, who was killed in action.

Following their tour of the monuments, the group went to Arlington Cemetery and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they witnessed the changing of the guard.

Smallwood told his grandson that he thought there was a monument nearby built by Belgium and Luxenbourg honoring the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge who had liberated them from the Germans. Cooper looked it up on his smart phone, found the location and took a photo of it. On the way out they stopped by the Marine Memorial — the five Marines erecting a flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

Back at the airport they were treated to the singing of “God Bless America” by the newly crowned Miss Teen Baltimore.

The plane left Baltimore at 8 p.m., and the travelers were given a box supper before arriving back in Tallahassee where they were once again greeted with well wishers.

“It was a long busy day, but a wonderful experience,” Smallwood said. “I got back to Willow Ridge at midnight.”

Editor’s note: Fredrick Smallwood joined the Army at the age of 18, in 1943. As a member of the 106th Infantry serving in Europe, he was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was discharged on his 21st birthday in 1946 and came home to Attapulgus to farm. After he sold the farm he went to work for Pillsbury before his retirement.

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