WWII vets eager to take honor flight

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lauvahn Murray turned 90 on Sept. 14, andhis plane flight that leaves a week later will be a birthdaypresent to remember.

    The flight wasn’t planned as a birthday present; it just worked outthat way.

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    Murray boards a flight at Gulfport that only leaves twice a year.He’ll be headed to Washington, D.C., along with approximately 86World War II veterans from Mississippi, including fellow LincolnCounty resident James R.E. Nettles.

    The Wedneday flight is sponsored by the Mississippi Gulf CoastHonor Flight, which provides free one-day trips to World War IIveterans. The Mississippi Gulf Coast group is part of a hub oforganizations that provide the same service nationwide.

    The day begins early. Nettles and Murray must meet with their groupat 4:30 a.m. to get ready to fly out. The schedule has the men backin Mississippi by 7:30 p.m.

    During the day the men face a packed schedule. The itineraryincludes trips to the WWII, Korean War, Vietnam and Abraham Lincolnmemorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

    Murray is most excited about seeing Arlington NationalCemetery.

    “There’s a lot of good people buried there,” he said. “PresidentKennedy is buried there.”

    During the day, meals are provided and medical assistance is onhand should it be required.

    “They take care of the old folks,” Murray said with a laugh.

    The Mississippi Gulf Coast group advertises the honor flight as ameans to say “thank you” to veterans of WWII.

    The group relies on donations so that it can offer the twice-yearlyflights free of charge to veterans. Most must only fill out anapplication to go on the flights.

    Nettles, 86, and Murray are friends.

    It was Nettles that told Murray about the opportunity. The twoworked for Chevron together and both retired in 1985.

    Both men also served in the South Pacific during WWII, but indifferent divisions of the military.

    Murray joined the Navy in 1942 and was discharged in 1945. Heserved as a pharmacist’s mate on a surgical team. Murray wasdischarged in 1945.

    Nettles entered the infantry in 1943 and was discharged in 1946. Hewas stationed on islands throughout the South Pacific including NewGuinea and the Philippines. He was even in Japan for a month ortwo.

    Both men still have photos and important items from their time inthe military. Nettles’ honorable discharge is framed on hiswall.

    Murray has a framed copy of a citation for outstanding service hereceived. He also has some from his military service. One is of allthe men he went to boot camp with.

    “There were some good guys there,” he said.

    Another photo faintly portrays an explosion over the ocean.

    “That ship was loaded with ammunition and a Japanese plane crashdived into it,” Murray said. “The whole thing blew up. It was onlytwo ships ahead of me.”

    According to data provided by the Mississippi Gulf Coast HonorFlight, approximately 1,000 WWII veterans die every day.

    “They’re getting kind of thin,” Nettles said concerning the ranksof fellow WWII veterans.

    Nettles said that of the veterans scheduled to participate in anhonor flight that took place earlier this year, three died beforethe flight took place.

    Ninety years is a long time and Murray has seen a lot of thingschange in that time.

    “A lot of water run under the bridge since I was born in thisworld,” Murray said.