World War II veterans Horace Luckey, left, and Jack Thomas joined Dr. Barry Booth for a presentation on the South Alabama Honor Flight at the Academy on Friday, 12 February.

World War II veterans Horace Luckey and Jack Thomas will always share a common bond thanks to the sacrifices they made for their country.

Because of a program like Honor Flight South Alabama, the veterans, lifelong Alabamians and war heroes from the Mobile area, finally met for the first time on 12 February.

Luckey and Thomas joined Dr. Barry Booth, the 2009 Mobile Bay Area Veterans Day Commission’s Veteran of the Year, during a short presentation to the faculty and staff of the United States Sports Academy. The trio promoted the Honor Flight South Alabama program, which flies World War II heroes to Washington D.C. for a daylong trip to the nation’s capital to visit the World War II Memorial and other military monuments.

Thomas’ brother, Ernest “Boots” Thomas, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism as a Rifle Platoon Leader, serving with Company E, Second Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Marine Division, during action on enemy Japanese-held Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 21 February 1945. When his platoon leader was wounded, Platoon Sergeant Thomas assumed command and, before supporting tanks arrived to cover him, led his men in an assault on a fanatically defended and heavily fortified hostile sector at the base of Mount Suribachi.” “Boots” Thomas commanded the first troops to place a flag on Iwo Jima, which provided the backdrop for one of World War II’s most famous images. “Boots” Thomas was killed six days later.

South Alabama Honor Flights leave Mobile at 5 a.m. to embark on their journey to D.C. Upon returning to Mobile the same evening, the veterans are greeted by rousing ovations and an overflow crowd, waiting to congratulate them on the journey and thank them again for their tremendous sacrifice.

The Honor Flight program began in 2005 in Ohio when six small planes flew 12 World War II veterans from Springfield to Washington. The Memorial was dedicated in April 2004. The goal of the program is to get as many veterans from around the country to see the Memorial as soon as possible. Thirty states are participating in the program.

Booth, who served in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division and the U.S. Army 5th Special Forces, said that 1,200 World War II veterans are dying every day.

Honor Flights South Alabama is accepting donations for the program and is seeking guardians to accompany the veterans on their flights to D.C. Booth said two flights are planned from the Mobile Area in 2010. For more information visit