The Grove City Community Club was established 101 years ago during World War I as a vehicle for women to support local men who were heading off to war.

The club's charitable reach has greatly expanded over the years, but its latest donation brings everything back full circle.

The club donated $10,000 to Honor Flight Columbus to pay the cost for 20 central Ohio veterans to visit the national memorials in Washington, D.C.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the club's donation enabled James Sturgeon of Hilliard and Larry Baird of Galloway to make the trek with about 88 other veterans.

"There are so many local organizations we donate to. We were looking for something different and unique to support," said Linda Diehl, a club member.

"When a couple of our gals suggested supporting the Honor Flight program, it seemed like a perfect idea, given the origins of our club," she said.

Sturgeon and Baird attended the club's monthly meeting Nov. 13 to talk about their experience of taking the Honor Flight.

Both men are veterans of the Vietnam War.

"This was a special Veterans Day," said Sturgeon, who served in the Navy from 1964-68.

"I've been to Washington, D.C., twice before, the first time when I was 7 or 8, but this was a more meaningful trip," he said. "I think it's because you're taking it with other veterans."

While he is a Vietnam veteran, Sturgeon said a visit to a memorial commemorating an earlier conflict meant the most to him.

"I was most impressed and moved by the Korean War Memorial," he said. "The large statues of the platoon members give you such an awesome feeling, especially when they're illuminated by lights at night. It's a powerful image."

Of course, the visit to the Vietnam War Memorial was moving, Sturgeon said.

"It's a separate kind of experience, if you served in that war," he said.

"I was able to find the names of three pilots we lost in our squadron and three officers who were killed in the fire (in 1966) on the USS Oriskany."

Baird served from 1962-65 in the U.S. Army, based in Okinawa, Japan.

"I had some idea of what's involved in the Honor Flight because my brother had done one," he said. "But it was a lot more than I expected.

"It's just the way you're treated on the trip. The guardians (who are trained to travel with and assist veterans taking an Honor Flight) were so nice and helpful. It makes you feel special," he said.

Many of the veterans who were on the flight served in Vietnam, Baird said.

"We have that connection," he said.

Like Sturgeon, Baird said he was most impressed by a memorial dedicated to an earlier war.

"The World War II Memorial – just the size of it was so impressive," he said. "You look at that and it puts everything in perspective."

The journey was the 93rd trip coordinated by Honor Flight Columbus and the last one of the year, said Cindy Kanwar, volunteer coordinator and board member with the organization.

"Our mission is to honor our veterans, share their stories with others and to celebrate their coming home and their service to our country," she said.

Honor Flight arranges the trips free of charge for veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, Kanwar said.

"What's so wonderful to me is just to watch the welcome home they receive after a flight," she said.

On Nov. 11, more than 800 people greeted the 90 veterans at the airport, Kanwar said.

"The graciousness and gratitude people show the veterans is incredible to see," she said. "When they go on an Honor Flight, they are rock stars for the day. It's their day."

The experience of visiting memorials with fellow veterans can help participants reflect on their wartime experience, Kanwar said.

"A lot of them don't talk a lot about what they experienced, but when they are around their fellow veterans, it's easier to open up and talk about things," she said. "It's an opening up that can help lead to some closure."

More information about Honor Flight Columbus, including opportunities to donate or volunteer with the organization, is available at honorflightcolumbus.org.

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