Roswell Rotary Club’s Honor Air trip recently gave us a wonderful way of honoring our veterans. Two Woodland Ridge residents, Mr. William Smith and Dr. Ray Swords, accompanied the group on a whirlwind tour of military memorials in Washington, D.C., including the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam memorials along with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. Woodland Ridge Executive Director Amy Brannen, who is a member of the Roswell Rotary Club, accompanied the group as a volunteer guardian for the day as well. About 50 support staff, including a doctor and emergency personnel, assisted approximately 89 veterans on the trip. Among the group were 17 World War II veterans, 19 Korean War veterans, and a number of Vietnam veterans.
The morning began early as the group met in Roswell to take chartered buses to the airport and then took a chartered flight to D.C. Along the way, the veterans had police escorts, saw fire trucks with flags hanging over the roadway, and were welcomed with water cannons at the airports as a way of honoring our veterans and their service to our country. Roswell Rotary Club raises funds to cover the cost of the trip for veterans; they also provide volunteer guardians, nurses, and paramedics. The club has hosted the trip for 8 years.
Dr. Ray Swords first joined the United States Navy during World War II as part of a special program that took top-ranked high school students into an officers’ training program. During the Korean Conflict, Swords joined the U.S. Air Force as an officer. His primary role was to visit Air Force stations to audit their records and ensure accuracy of enlistment, rank, and discharge data for military personnel.
Swords says he was not at all excited about the trip at first because he’s visited Washington, D.C., several times and thought he’d seen all the attractions before. Swords says, “when I got there, I was glad that I was able to go. The most impressive thing that I saw was something I didn’t even know existed. It was interesting to be there and see the memorial to the men who fought in the Korean Conflict.”
Mr. William Smith, a recipient of the Purple Heart and multiple Bronze Star awards, joined the United States Army in 1941 just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He says the young men of that era knew something like the Pearl Harbor attack was coming and wanted to serve their country. Smith was a rifleman in the Army and then was an NCO. He was deployed to the Pacific and says, “Once we got into combat, we stayed in combat until the war ended.” Smith served in many well-known campaigns, including Guadalcanal and New Georgia. Smith remembers that his group landed 54 days before the beachhead was made. There were only 2,000 men – half Army and half Marines – who fended off the Japanese until reinforcements arrived. Smith was also among the soldiers who witnessed the testing of the atomic bomb.
Smith says he was excited about the trip and was glad he was invited. He had spent some time in Washington, D.C., just after World War II and is pleased he got to return to see the memorials. Smith says there’s no one part of his service that makes him the proudest; he’s proud of his service overall. Woodland Ridge was so pleased to be a small part of letting him and the other veterans know that we are also incredibly proud of and grateful for their service as well.