When Cliff Lummus, 31, realized hundreds of WWII veterans were dying every day — and many had never seen the national monument built in their honor — so he wanted to do something to show appreciation for the their sacrifices.
“I’ve seen — in my lifetime — the last World War I veteran passing away. And I realized in my lifetime, we’re going to see that same thing happen with the WWII veterans,” Lummus said. “I want to do something to directly honor them.”
Lummus started an online fundraiser called “Project D70” with the goal to raise more than $14,000 by July 4 to send a group of WWII veterans to Washington this September to see the monument built in their honor.
“I think people want to do something. They want to show their respect, appreciation and support, but they don’t know how to focus it at WWII veterans. So I wanted give a real way to do that,” Lummus said.
The money donated to Project D70 goes directly to Honor Flight Savannah, one of two Georgia hubs for the national Honor Flight Network, Lummus said.
Retired Navy Lt. Larry Spears is the founder and treasurer of the nonprofit Savannah hub for the Honors Flight Network and said many veterans have never seen the monuments built to honor their service to the country.
“It took them about 60 years to build the memorial to the WWII veterans,” Spears said. “About 400 (WWII veterans) per day are passing away. When I started the program in Savannah in 2009, we were losing at the rate of 1,200 per day. It’s a diminishing population. We’re running out of time.”
Since founding Honor Flight Savannah, Spears has transported more than 500 veterans to Washington — at no cost to them — to see the monuments built to commemorate past wars, he said.
“Of all of the people that served in the armed forces since the founding of our nation, this is the only group that the entire age group mustered, without any coercion, to protect our freedoms,” Spears said of WWII veterans. “It was a very unselfish motivation on their part. They had just suffered living through the dust bowl in the Midwest — in a lot of cases — and the Great Depression nationwide. And right after the Depression ended, here they are going off for anywhere from three to four years in a foreign country to protect our freedom.”
Lummus said with so many charities and organizations helping veterans, he wanted to contribute to a more focused, specific goal.
“With bigger organizations … nobody wants to be the one that gave the $5 that bought a box of ballpoint pens, needed though they may be,” Lummus said. “They actually want to see the progress. They want to know, ‘If I donate $5, $5 went straight to the cause that I was trying to get it to.’”
With a cost of about $300 to $400 per person, Lummus said about 30 veterans will be able to travel to Washington. Volunteers pay their own cost for travel.
Unlike most organizations in the Honors Flight Network, the Savannah hub uses buses to transport veterans, Spears said.
“The cost out of Savannah has gotten prohibitively expensive. We don’t have Southwest, like in Atlanta,” Spears explained. “A roundtrip cost on Saturday, for a nonstop flight costs $700. It’s hard to ask a volunteer to show their love for the program (and pay $700 to volunteer). With the bus, I’m able to keep the cost just under $400.”
The Project D70 fundraiser is hosted online, and contributors can claim various perks for their donations, from amounts starting at $1, all the way up to $1,000.
“Things like the posters and postcards — all of that, I’m designing from scratch,” Lummus said.
A week after the fundraiser was created online, Project D70 has received just more than $300 in donations, and Lummus said he hopes more donors come forward as the project deadline nears.
“Nobody wants to be the first money in,” Lummus said, adding he expects donations to pick up as the deadline looms.
Lummus said all donations are accepted and go straight to the organization, even if the goal is not fully met.
“They always need funds and contributions, no matter what. Whether we hit the goal or not, the money will still go to them,” Lummus said. “The $300 we’ve got right now, that’s about enough to send one extra veteran.”
Donations can be made online at ProjectD70.com.