Officials of Honor Flight South Carolina today will announce a record donation to the program, which flies World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., for free to visit their national memorial.
The National Guard Association of South Carolina, SCANA Corp. and Wal-Mart will present the group with a check for $25,000. It represents the concession proceeds from October's McEntire Air and Ground Show Expo held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.
The donation "allows us to show our thanks for the community's support," said Capt. Heather Leite of the guard.
The donation is more than twice as much as previous record corporate gifts - $10,000 each from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and Columbia's FN Manufacturing, which builds small arms for the military and police.
"This is significant because it gives us the money we need to contract a spring flight," said Columbia restaurateur Bill Dukes, the Honor Flight South Carolina chairman.
So far, Honor Flight S.C. in one year has flown 650 World War II veterans to see the National World War II Memorial.
Simpsonville organized the first Honor Flight in May 2008, flying 101 veterans from the Upstate.
Since then, chapters have spread from Simpsonville to Columbia to Charleston - called Honor Flight Upstate, Honor Flight South Carolina and Honor Flight Lowcountry, respectively.
And the tiny town of Kershaw - population 1,500 - in Lancaster County formed a chapter, raising $50,000 needed to fly 100 veterans from that area Nov. 21.
Each chartered flight costs $50,000. Much of the money is raised by guardians - individuals who pay $500 to assist the vets on the one-day trips. Many of the veterans are in poor health, some in wheelchairs.
Dukes has signed a contract with US Airways for an April 21 flight, which, for the first time, might include Korean and Vietnam veterans.
Dukes said the organization is not taking general applications from veterans of Korea and Vietnam but would accept the terminally ill.
In addition to the World War II Memorial, the flights include visits to the Vietnam and Korean memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial.
There are 3 million World War II veterans across the nation, but they are dying at the rate of 1,500 a day. The Honor Flight Network has 73 hubs in 30 states, all dedicated to flying as many veterans as possible to the memorial.
SCANA and Wal-Mart gave financial support to the Expo, which, in turn, made it possible to raise the money for the Honor Flights, Dukes said.
Marty Phelan, vice president for the utility's gas operations, was closely involved in the sponsorship.
"This is certainly an outstanding way to recognize and pay tribute to our World War II veterans for the service they've given and the sacrifices they've made," he said.