Freedom isn’t free. Honor Flight helps us remember and respect that fact.
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport American war veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Honor Flight is helping to make sure that those brave warriors receive our thanks before time runs out.
There are 130 Honor Flight Hubs in 44 U.S. States. Each hub raises funds to sponsor these flights, sometimes 2, 3, or 4 times a year. There is no cost to the veteran; airfare, meals, lodging, and ground transportation is covered by donations. Each veteran is accompanied by a guardian, a health professional assigned to make sure their health needs are met during the trip. Southwest Airlines is an Honor Flight partner and provides the flights to the Washington, D.C. area. Since its founding in 2005, over 160,000 veterans have flown on an Honor Flight along with over 108,000 guardians.
My 96 year old father in law had the privilege of flying on one of Utah’s Honor Flight missions, May 26-28, 2016.
A World War II Navy veteran, he and his group of 50 fellow veterans left from the Salt Lake City Airport the morning of May 26th and flew to Baltimore, Maryland, arriving late in the afternoon. They were accompanied by Brigham Young University College of Nursing students serving as their guardians. Upon landing, the veterans and their guardians were loaded on tour buses and traveled to the The Westin Dulles Airport Hotel, their lodging for the next two days .
On Friday, the vets with their guardians were up early to be transported to the World War II Memorial where a ceremony honoring them was scheduled. Hundreds of tourists gathered to pay their respects to the veterans for the ceremony.
After, the veterans visited other monuments along the mall area. Later, they were back in the buses and went to Arlington National Cemetery to attend another ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That evening, back at the hotel, a dinner and program was presented to honor the veterans. Each vet was introduced and received a memorial plaque for their service. The next day, Saturday, the veterans were taken to Fort McHenry in Baltimore to tour before boarding the airplanes to return back to Salt Lake City later that afternoon.
My husband and his two brothers wanted to support their dad with his Honor Flight, so they flew from Kansas City and Los Angeles to join him. A granddaughter from Florida also flew in for the occasion.
They were able to shadow their dad as he was honored and visited the various memorials with him. My husband commented, “It was important for me and my brothers to share this experience with our dad. Most of the vets did not have family there. The whole Honor Flight experience was very moving. The gratitude towards my dad and the other vets was overwhelming.”
(Editor’s note: my husband and his brothers had to take a nap on Friday in order to keep up with the vets and their rigorous schedule)
What did my father in law think of the whole experience? “It was great. I didn’t realize how much people thought of the veterans. I was amazed at the amount of attention that people gave to us from one place to the next. It was very rewarding and I was glad to be able to go.” Honor Flight is doing a remarkable service to help citizens remember that Freedom is not Free. To donate to Honor Flight or find an Honor Flight Hub near you, visit their website. Utah’s Honor Flight is planning their next trip for World War II veterans in September. Interested veterans can apply on their website.
A HUGE thank you to all those who have or who are fighting to preserve the freedoms of this great land. God Bless America, land that I love.
***Editor’s Note: Russell N. Payzant passed away February 19, 2017.