Columbia, SC (WLTX) - One hundred World War II veterans here in South Carolina are about to be given the trip of a lifetime.
South Carolina Honor Flight taking the group to see the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.
The memorial was built in 2006, and since its founding, Honor Flight of South Carolina has collected donations to organize 11 chartered trips for veterans to the nation's captial.
"I don't know if I have done as much as other people, but I was there and I was involved in the fighting," said Eugene Kessler, a World War II veteran who'll be making the trip.
Kessler remembers back nearly 60 years, when he was a motor officer stationed in northern Italy.
"I think I will always remember that sick sweet smell of death," said Kessler.
The 89-year-old says it was his job to lead his battalion into firing position.
"My driver kept telling me, 'Lieutenant, we have gone too far. We better turn around and go back.' And I finally told him to shut up."
Now, as Kessler shares his story with us, he'll get to do one better--share it with 99 other WWII veterans in Washington D.C.
"And many of these folks have never had the chance to go to Washington and they've never been able to see the memorial that's been dedicated in their honor so it's just a huge thing," says Van O'Cain with the South Carolina Electric Cooperative.
O'Cain says the one-day trip to D.C will also host veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as guardians from the co-op.
"More than 600 WWII veterans are dying every day in this country," O'Cain says. "So the window of opportunity to get these folks to Washington, D.C to see their memorial is closing."
As Kessler reflects on his service to his country, he says he is looking forward to the trip to D.C., one he calls the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I appreciate people having respect for us and the things we did," said Kessler.
The Veterans on board the Honor Flight will leave this Wednesday April 11th and return that night. If you're interested in going an honor flight or signing up a veteran, visit the application page at: http://www.honorflightsc.com/applications