Twenty years ago, Donna Spigner's father, R.J. Odom, of Savannah, passed away on the Fourth of July.
Odom was a World War II veteran but rarely spoke of his experiences. Some time after his death, Spigner, an information technology specialist with Palmetto Health, found a trunk full of items from her father's military service.
"There were hundreds of pictures with everything on the back - people's addresses, phone numbers. He kept a log of everything. And I was able to track every one down."
From those items she began to build her father's story: Staff Sgt. Odom loaded weapons on a P-51 fighter plane in England. The pilot was a famous flier, coincidentally from Columbia, named Jimmy "Ack Ack" Wright. Their squadron, called "Bill's Buzz Boys," was known for blowing up German supply trains.
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Spigner, now 50, volunteers with the Honor Flight program, which flies World War II vets to their memorial in Washington, D.C., for free. She builds the flight manifests - from hundreds of veterans who apply to go on the trips - and makes sure that everyone gets in their seats.
"There are a lot of volunteers ... who have lost our fathers and our opportunity to do this with them," she said. "So we treat these vets like family.
"It's a very, very unique generation," she added. "They've got high moral standards and values that we've gotten away from. When this generation ends, they will take most of those good things with them."
- Jeff Wilkinson, staff writer