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Dole sponsors flight to D.C. memorial for veterans in memory of brother

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole of Salisbury is making a “living memorial” for her late brother by sponsoring the “John Hanford Memorial Flight.”
Dole, whose donation to Rotary District 7680 Flight of Honor is making the trip possible, will be accompanying a plane-load of World War II veterans Oct. 20 when they leave from Charlotte and travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial.
Dole will leave with a bus departing from Salisbury for Charlotte in the early morning.
Making the memorial flight with her will be John’s widow, Bunny Hanford; sons John and Jody Hanford; and cousin Anita Ryan.
They will travel with some 103 veterans from this area and their guardians, most of whom have never been to the memorial.
In Washington, the group will meet with Dole’s husband, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, and daughter, Robin. Also on hand will be John’s daughter-in-law, Laura Hanford, and his four grandchildren.
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that takes World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial, free of charge.
The Doles often have met the flights and been part of their experience. Elizabeth Dole said her husband probably has met Flight of Honor groups at least 90 times.
“Some of the stories are incredible,” Elizabeth Dole told the Post.
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the U.S. armed forces, the more than 400,000 who died and all who supported the war effort on the home front.
The memorial opened to the public April 29, 2004, and was dedicated a month later.
Dole said she has been looking for an appropriate way to pay tribute to her brother since his death in 2008, and the Honor Flight Network seemed the best way to provide a living memorial.
The Honor Flight Network has taken more than 30,000 World War II veterans to visit the memorial, described as the “Jewel of the Mall.”
Rotary District 7680 is a member of the Honor Flight Network.
Dole’s total donation on her brother’s behalf will assure that hundreds of veterans in the Charlotte area will see their memorial.
The Oct. 20 trip will rely on a US Airways charter and will return that night.
In Washington, the group also will visit the U.S. Navy Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
Dole said the Flight of Honor trips are important because the country is losing 1,000 of its most senior veterans daily.
“Time is not on our side,” she said.
John Hanford Jr. grew up in Salisbury, graduated from Boyden High School and entered the U.S. Navy just after graduating from Duke University in 1943, a few months after his 20th birthday.
He served first on the aircraft carrier USS Windham Bay and then on the world’s largest carrier, the USS Saratoga.
“I remember well the little Wave uniform Lt. Hanford brought me when he came home to Salisbury on ‘survivor’s leave,'” Dole said.
The Saratoga was hit twice by torpedoes fired by enemy submarines and forced to retire for repairs.
The ship’s heaviest damage was suffered near Iwo Jima when it was struck by seven bombs and five Kamikaze planes.
The Saratoga survived, but 123 of John Hanford’s shipmates died, and more than 300 were injured.
After the war, John Hanford Jr. returned to his hometown of Salisbury to join his father in the family florist business, started by his grandfather in 1905. During the war, his father had changed the name of the company to J. Van Hanford and Son as an expression of faith that his son would return home safely.
The family business, later to become Hanford’s Inc. of Charlotte and Salisbury, was led by John nd Bunny Hanford.
It became the Southeast’s largest wholesale florist business, with an expansive greenhouse complex and an international import corporation.
Hanford died of heart failure April 7, 2008, at his home in Charlotte, after a struggle with cancer for the previous year and a half.
“If he were here,” Dole said in a press release, “he would join World War II veterans from his home areas, Salisbury and Charlotte, on this flight because of his great respect for the sacrifices made by so many and his tremendous patriotism and love of country.
“I am the little sister who idolized him, and I am proud to sponsor an Honor Flight in loving memory of John.”
The Flight of Honor trips are supported by public donations. For more information on how to donate or participate, go to www.honorflight.org.
Dole thanked the Rotary Clubs of District 7680, the Salisbury and Charlotte Rotary Clubs, and Jeff Miller, co-founder of Honor Flight Network, who will work with the Rotary district to direct the Oct. 20 flight.More information on the Oct. 20 trip is available at www.johnhanfordmemorialhonorflight.com.

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