South Charlotte

A trip to pay tribute

Carroll Moore doesn't like to let go of a dream.

A year ago he saw a CBS News program about a community group that raised money to take about 300 World War II veterans to Washington to visit the National World War II Memorial.

Moore, a 70-year-old Navy veteran from York, decided right then and there he was going to do the same thing in York County.

One of his motivations was that he had three uncles and an aunt who were in World War II and they had all died before getting a chance to see the Memorial. He also knew that many of the surviving veterans were in their 80s and 90s and that an estimated 1,900 World War II veterans died daily.

“These folks are truly our greatest generation, and they're getting fewer and fewer every day, so I figured I didn't have any time to waste,” said Moore. “And the next morning I just picked up the phone and started calling everyone I could think of.”

He contacted the local Veterans Affairs office and determined there were about 900 veterans in York County and about 350 were physically able to make the trip. He also estimated he could fly the group to Washington if he could raise about $130,000.

Most everyone that Moore approached – city councils and civic groups – agreed that it was a good idea but when it came to money, he was coming up short.

“I don't know if it was the downturn in the economy or what, but no matter what I did I just couldn't get the money we needed to get this off the ground,” Moore said.

It got so bad earlier this summer that Moore was about to give up.

“It broke my heart for these veterans because I knew we were just running out of time without the money,” Moore said.

But … the word got around and people started calling Moore, particularly veterans' groups such as the American Legion.

And the trip is back on – scaled back, but a trip nonetheless to the Memorial.

Twenty-three local veterans will leave Oct. 10 from the Frank Roach Post 34 of the American Legion on Cherry Road for an all-night bus trip to Washington and return about 3 a.m. Sunday. Moore raised $5,700, which will cover the transportation costs for the veterans and 18 chaperones to help with their wheelchairs and walkers. They'll have lunch at the Memorial, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and will possibly be greeted by Robert Dole and Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C. (depending on their campaign schedules). The group will be accompanied by a physician and a nurse.

Not only that, but Moore is trying to raise an additional $1,000 for commemorative jackets for each veteran with “The Greatest Generation Pilgrimage” on one side and the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and World War II veterans on the other.

“I don't know how Carroll did it but he said he would and now we're going and I can't wait,” said Lanford Brackett, 89, of Bowling Green, S.C. He's a former Marine who fought at Guadalcanal, suffered two concussions and was wounded in hand-to-hand combat in the South Pacific. “The war was a long time ago, it's nice to have some people like Carroll who haven't forgotten about us and are going to this trouble to get us up there.”

About 16 million Americans fought in the war, and fewer than 3 million are left. Moore said that originally 27 veterans were going on the trip, but one died and three others have had health complications.

Marshall Whitesides of York and Joe Williams of Clover will be making the trip.

Whitesides, 83, was an infantryman with the Army's 14th Armored Division and came ashore at Normandy. He was seriously wounded by Nazis in Steinfield, Germany. He was hit by shrapnel in his lower face and shoulder. He spent more than a year in hospitals in France and in the States.

Whitesides, who runs a dry cleaner and uniform rental business in York, has visited the Memorial but wanted to see it with other veterans from York County.

“You can see it on TV, but when you're there in Washington beside it, it really gets to you,” Whitesides said. “It makes you think about all the guys that didn't make it back.”

Williams, 83, served 33 months in the Coast Guard and was at D-Day, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as Operation Tiger just before Normandy.

“If Carroll hadn't done this, I'm sure that most of us would never see the Memorial,” Williams said. “It will still be a struggle for some of us physically but at our age we just don't have that much time. But together we'll make it.”