Saturday figures to be a big day for Cynthiana's Jonathan Smith and about 34 other World War II veterans from around Central and Eastern Kentucky.
They're flying to Washington, D.C., in the morning to spend the day visiting the World War II Memorial and other attractions around the capital before returning that night.
The Bluegrass Chapter of the Honor Flight Network organized the veterans' free trip to the memorial. Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperative, including East Kentucky Power and its 16 co-ops, are funding the trip.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Smith said last week. "We're all really grateful for them arranging everything."
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Smith, 88, served with the Army in Europe, arriving in France soon after the D-day invasion of June 6, 1944, 67 years ago. He was part of the 97th Infantry Division.
"The Germans called us the diaper division," Smith recalled. "We had a lot of kids, and a lot of them had lied about their age to get into the Army."
Smith's main job was operating a truck delivering ammunition and supplies. It was no Sunday drive. Among other things, he hauled to the front lines pontoons for a bridge that U.S. troops built to cross the Rhine River.
"I look back at some things that happened and think I really didn't do that," he said. "But, yes, I did.
"One day, we were moving out as fast as we could, and I was hooking up a trailer by myself. A German shell went off. I don't know if it was the concussion or if my foot slipped, but I fell on my left side on top of the trailer tongue. We didn't have a medic, so I kept on going with no treatment at all."
The seriousness of the injury became apparent when Smith started passing blood. Even so, he kept on doing his job until Germany surrendered. He got little medical attention until he was shipped home.
Doctors at a military hospital in Oakland, Calif., wanted to remove Smith's left kidney and part of the right, but Smith refused. Released from the Army, he struggled with problems related to his war injury.
"It took about five years to really get over it," he said. "I was very fortunate."
Saturday's Honor Flight will be the first sponsored by East Kentucky Power and its cooperatives. But company spokesman Kevin Osbourn said another trip is planned next year.
"It's really rewarding for us to be a part of honoring these veterans," he said.
A late addition to Saturday's passenger list will be Jay Warden, 86, of Winchester, who fought in the Pacific as a Marine during World War II. Warden was supposed to be on an Honor Flight earlier this month but had to cancel after his wallet was stolen.
When Touchstone Energy officials learned of Warden's plight, they quickly arranged for him to be on Saturday's flight so he wouldn't miss out, Osbourn said.
It will be Warden's second visit to the memorial. His family took him there in 2007 when he was battling cancer. The trip turned memorable, however, when about 30 students from California came up and gave Warden hugs, handshakes and thanks for his war service.
"I told them, you all have made my day," he said. "It was a fabulous experience for me."
Smith had a similar experience during a visit to the World War II Memorial a few years ago when it was under construction.
"One thing that really impressed me was that there were some young German and Japanese people visiting the memorial that day," Smith said. "They came over to us and were expressing their gratitude for what we did in the war, getting them out from under regimes that were tyrants.
"Now, that might sound surprising. But they seemed very sincere. You see the horrors of war, and you think no good could come from it. But in fact some good did come from it.
"That makes me feel better about the war."