About 50 people, including caregivers, church members and friends, waved U.S. flags as Verl Fisher was helped onto a plane, where he was accompanied by a local doctor, and as the plane taxied down the runway and climbed into the sky.
"I'm never going to see him again, I know that," said Nell Dale of Gainesville, a close family friend, wiping away tears. "I hope this (trip) isn't going to be too much for him."
Fisher, 90, had lived in Gainesville for the past eight years, moving here from Assumption, Ill., to be close to family after his wife, Frances Louise, or "Cookie," died.
He lived in an apartment for several years. After his health worsened, he moved to Dogwood Forest Assisted Living Center in North Hall.
Fisher has been in Northeast Georgia Medical Center hospice care for the past three or four months, said his nurse, Lisa Fry.
"He's a determined man," she said.
He will stay in a nursing home about 30 miles from Assumption and live close to one of his sons, who "can check in on him every day," said his daughter Peggy Hudson of Jackson, Wyo.
Fisher served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying aboard the B-17 "Flying Fortress" in 24 bombing raids over Germany. His plane was shot down and he was captured by German forces after he had parachuted in an open field.
Fisher went on to serve in a POW camp for more than a year.
Two members of Charlie Company, a Gainesville-based Georgia National Guard unit, greeted Fisher and thanked him for his service as the veteran sat in a wheelchair at the airplane.
"Those guys did so much for us," said Capt. Frank Barroqueiro. "Anything we can do to honor them, we need to do."
Read a full story describing Verl Fisher's life and World War II experiences in Sunday's edition of The Times.