Local veterans take Honor Flight

Published 11:57 pm Friday, May 7, 2010

Three World War II veterans from Demopolis had the flight of a lifetime, making a one-day trip from Tuscaloosa to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial and several other landmarks.

Paul Gresham, George Franks and Oscar McLamb made the memorable journey to see the war memorials and got enthusiastic receptions upon their arrivals in Washington and return to Tuscaloosa. The honor flight was sponsored by the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club.

Gresham served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 in Europe, and was part of the war-changing D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944.

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“I sure enjoyed it,” Gresham said. “There were little children giving us homemade cards and hugging us after we arrived back in Tuscaloosa. That was well worth the trip.

“There is no telling how much time and money the Rotary Club put in to do that. Words can’t express the enjoyment I got out of it.

“In front of the World War II Memorial, there was a short wall,” he said. “It had Omaha Beach, St. Lo, the Battle of the Bulge and the Hrtgen Forest. When you go into the Memorial, there was a wall. In bronze, it had the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and each little panel showed as the war progress through the years, until at the end, it had us liberating the concentration camps.”

McLamb served in World War II from August 1944 to July 1946 in Europe with the 94th Division.

“It was very interesting, very well organized, and I really enjoyed it,” McLamb said. “We saw the (Arlington) Cemetery, and I never knew it was that large. It’s enormous! We also saw the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Vietnam Wall and the Korean War Memorial.

“There were 102 soldiers with us, but we had 172 on the plane because some of the soldiers needed help to get around, and they could carry someone with them. I was proud to be able to go.”

Franks entered the service just after the end of World War II, serving on a submarine in New London, Conn., for 18 months.

“We took off from Tuscaloosa at 7:00 in the morning,” Franks said. “Everything was on schedule. We were met by the greatest reception of people – I’ll bet there was 200 people at the airport in Washington. It was tear-jerking to see that many people show up, from different branches of the military.”

Franks said the group witnessed the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery, which he found to be an emotionally stirring sight.

McLamb said he wanted to thank the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, which sponsored the flight.

“I appreciate the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa for everything that they did,” said Franks. “Those folks went all out. It was just unbelievable. Everyone should have that opportunity. It was a first-class operation from the word ‘Go.’”

“It was just something you’d dream about,” he said. “There is just no other way to explain it. I never expected to be able to participate in something this great.”

“We really had a good time,” Gresham said. “I wish I had had more time to stay there and soak in.”