GORHAM — Like many World War II veterans, George Watson started getting letters in the mail in the 1990s.

Then-Sen. Bob Dole, a veteran himself, was in charge of raising money to build a memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor the soldiers from what was being called “the greatest generation.” Who better to support that project than those soldiers?

So Watson, who retired as a bank manager in 1986, sent a check whenever he could.

This weekend, he’ll finally get to see where his money went.

Watson, a 92-year-old U.S. Army veteran who lives at a nursing home in Gorham, will be among 27 Maine veterans, mostly World War II vets, to depart Friday for Washington as part of Maine’s Honor Flight program. There will be a send-off for them at the Portland International Jetport at 9 a.m.

The men will spend Saturday and Sunday touring the various monuments and memorials dedicated to military members, including the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and, of course, the World War II memorial.

The trip is funded entirely through donations. The veterans don’t have to bring a penny – unless they want a souvenir.

In an interview Thursday at the Gorham House, Watson said his thoughts are conflicted about the trip.

“I certainly think it’s appropriate that there is a memorial,” he said, his eyes displaying the same sparkle they did in his official military photo from 1941, when he was just out of high school. “But I don’t feel special. I think there was a war and I served because that’s what you did.

“And I saw plenty, but I don’t think I need to be a hero.”

Watson will have two familiar faces with him: Larry Wright and Robert Kimball, both also residents of the Gorham House and veterans of World War II.

Wright, 88, was an Army medic who spent most of his post-military life as a teacher. His wife of 62 years lives at the nursing home as well.

Kimball, 90, served in the Air Force and then became a letter carrier. He lost his wife to cancer more than 20 years ago.

Like Watson, Wright and Kimball said they’re not sure how they will feel when they arrive in Washington and begin touring the famed military sites dedicated to them.

They said they don’t really think much about the war and their time in the service anymore – in part because the memories continue to fade with time.

Kimball, in describing his time overseas, said he wanted to make sure he got his story straight, but he struggled to put the details together chronologically.

“I used to think a lot about it, but not as much anymore,” he said.

Wright, who spoke in almost a whisper, was more interested in talking about his time since returning home from war.

Watson remembers being stationed somewhere in Europe and watching bombs rain down near him. He looked for a place to dig a foxhole but could find only concrete.

But those aren’t the things he wants to remember. He keeps a suitcase of letters he and his wife exchanged during his military service. She died in 2008. He last looked at them about two months ago. Now they are just faded ink on yellowing paper, but he said they mean more to him than medals.

The three Gorham House residents said they are prepared that the trip, and the sites, may stir up emotions that have to date remained dormant. They also acknowledged the reality that this trip is likely their last chance to visit their nation’s capital.

That’s the biggest reason the national Honor Flight program was founded a decade ago, originally to help World War II veterans visit the monuments to their service. Many of the veterans were dying; those who are alive today are all well into their 80s or 90s.

The program was created in Ohio, but has since expanded to states all across the country and now includes veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars. The New England branch was founded in 2009 in New Hampshire and has coordinated 35 flights for 1,143 veterans.

This is the third Honor Flight for veterans from Maine.

The three veterans who live at Gorham House didn’t know each other in the war. There were so many thousands of young men scattered throughout Europe and the Pacific. Many didn’t return, and others returned wounded.

Watson, Wright and Kimball all came back whole and have lived long lives – their service fading into memory and further away each year.

But for one weekend, they will relive that time, share stories and reflect on the world and their place in it.

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