By Colby Hochmuth - 10/01/12 10:09 PM EDT
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) took time away from the campaign trail Wednesday to accompany a group of not-so-ordinary South Carolinians on a memorial tour of Washington, D.C.
Mulvaney spent the day with 85 World War II veterans, ranging in age from 82 to 94, as they visited the memorial built in honor of their service as well as other historic sites around town.
“I think [the veterans have] gotten a sense of how appreciated they are,” Mulvaney said while standing by the South Carolina pillar of the National World War II Memorial. “A lot of these veterans have never been here before, but now, to see this memorial and know that it’s here and will always be here, is very special to them.”
The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC) partnered with the Honor Flight Program as a way to give back to the veterans of South Carolina, especially those in rural areas. President and CEO Mike Couick said he felt strongly that, as ECSC approached its 75th anniversary, the company needed to do something more for its customers.
The veterans came to Washington donning the signature red Honor Flight jackets and red lipstick kisses given by admirers at Reagan National Airport. Some were in wheelchairs; others held onto the arms of their guardians, a group of volunteers from South Carolina congressional offices and ECSC.
More than 200 people greeted the veterans at the airport, as well as a brass band and women dressed as war-era USO girls. They were then bussed to the World War II memorial, where they listened to a benediction given by the Rev. Glen E. Maxson. After the benediction, they bowed their heads as a bugler played taps.
Courtney Titus, a legislative assistant in Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) office, spent the day with Wilson “Bill” Clinton, an 87-year-old veteran.
“I feel so fortunate to be here with the veterans to thank them for all they’ve done,” Titus said.
Veteran John Thomas Lunn and his guardian, Thomas Black, both electricians from the same district in South Carolina, sat side by side on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial “trading some licks and sharing stories” about their lives.
“It’s been so incredible,” Black said. “I’ve learned so much from him already, just listening to his stories.”
This was the ECSC’s second Honor Flight trip this year. The company would like to host another trip, but because of the declining number of World War II veterans left in South Carolina, that might not be possible.
One of the older veterans on the trip, 92-year-old Paul Baker, said of the experience, “The younger generations have to realize that this life wasn’t given through just giving — it cost a lot of lives. That’s why you have to make each life worthwhile.”