One of our most important national holidays, Veterans Day, is just around the corner, and I want to tell you about a very special event celebration I recently was privileged to be a part of. I had the extreme privilege recently to accompany my father, an 88-year-old WWII veteran, on an “Honor Flight” to Washington DC.
It was an amazing experience, for the veterans, and the volunteers such as me. If you are not aware of Honor Flights, here are a few highlights of the organization.
Honor Flight™ is a network of volunteers established for the express purpose of getting as many WWII Veterans as possible to Washington, DC to view the World War II Memorial. Honor Flight™ was originally set up in 2004 by Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant from Ohio. Honor Flight™ DFW (HFDFW) was established in September 2008 to bring this wonderful effort to the Dallas/Ft Worth/North Texas area. To date, Honor Flight DFW has flown 488 WWII veterans to Washington, DC.
The all-expense paid, overnight trip to Washington, DC includes visits to: WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Marine (Iwo Jima), Navy and Air Force Memorials and Arlington Cemetery. The Honor Flight we attended in Sept also was treated to a private concert by the US Air Force “Airmen of Note.”
Each veteran is assigned a Guardian to ensure his/her safety. Additionally, a team of volunteer medical professionals travel with each flight. The Guardians and medical personnel pay their own expenses.
The veterans are honored that evening in Washington with a Heroes’ Banquet. In addition to the WW II veterans, guests to the banquet include an honor guard that presents the colors, active military service personnel and guest speakers. Then it’s lights out and time to rest for a busy second day of touring.
The veterans receive a heroes’ welcome on their return to DFW International Airport.
Honor Flight of DFW is an all-volunteer organization with every donation going directly toward the group’s goal of taking veterans to Washington, D.C. The cost is approximately $1,000 per veteran, which pays their plane fare, hotel accommodations, chartered bus fare, meals, uniforms, souvenir videos, and a reunion event after their return.
Veterans are not permitted to pay for anything themselves.
More help is needed. With more than 400 veterans on the waiting list, Honor Flight DFW is asking the community’s assistance to honor these deserving veterans before it’s too late.
Volunteer opportunities are abundant. Honor Flight DFW is also asking the community’s help in identifying local veterans who would like to make the trip. Veteran applications can be downloaded from the web site. More information about how to donate, how to submit veterans’ names, and how to get involved can also be found on the Honor Flight DFW website at www.HonorFlightDFW.org.
When Honor Flight DFW veterans are welcomed home at the airport by hundreds of cheering supporters, family members, friends, and volunteers waving flags to the sound of bagpipes and drums, they are overwhelmed. They carry in their hands letters received during “mail call” on the plane home from D.C. that are from local school children, volunteers, family members and other well-wishers who want to simply say “thank you.” Tears stream down many of their time-worn faces as they look upon a sea of people expressing their thanks.
For many of these heroes, this is the first real expression of gratitude they have received. They laid their lives on the line for our country, our freedom, and for the lives we enjoy today. Many of them say, “I thought no one remembered.”
Honor Flight DFW asks that we show them we remember and that we are grateful. One volunteer said it best –
They saved the world so that we can simply and freely say, “Thank you.”