I had the opportunity to join an inaugural Honor Flight from Council Bluffs, Iowa, bringing veterans to Washington DC for exclusive tours of the capitol.
What’s An Honor Flight?
Many US military veterans have never been on a trip to Washington DC to visit memorials built in their honor and for their brothers and sisters in arms who never came home. Honor Flight gives them that opportunity. Each selected service member is treated to a flight to the District of Columbia (often from stations far from the nation’s capital) to dedicated to honoring them for their military service and sacrifice.
On this particular honor flight, more than 50 veterans and their caretakers were able to participate. As part of the trip, all meals, transportation, and tours are included. The veterans pay nothing for the trip, and 100% of the costs are covered by outside donations. Veterans’ guardians (those who help with service-connected disabilities or provide health care or mobility assistance) are invited to join the trips, usually at Honor Flight hubs, which makes trips like this one so special.
While on our trip, we met many others including a large contingent from Chicago that brought a particularly special Honor Flight:
“The honor flight began in 2005 and has flown thousands of vets to DC. This is the 98th flight from Chicago, but the first all-female honor flight.
Bette Horstman of Morton Grove will be on the flight. Horstman is 99-years-old, turning 100 in December. She spent 18-months in the South Pacific as a physical therapist and is still working today.
Another World War II veteran on the flight is turning 105 next week.” – WGN
Wake Foundation/Kanesville Honor Guard
Robert Wake was a decorated army infantryman from the second Iraqi war. Following an explosion he survived on a Bagdad rooftop, he received a Purple Heart and committed himself upon his return to serving other vets who may be struggling.
In more than a decade after its initial founding, the Wake foundation has brought hundreds of veterans to Washington DC from across the midwestern United States. This year alone, the Wake Foundation has sponsored four trips, though pre-pandemic the group hosted an average of eight or more trips annually.
While this post is dedicated to the veterans of Council Bluffs, Iowa in partnership with the Kanesville Honor Guard and their first Honor Flight, it was done in partnership with the Wake Foundation. The Wake Foundation organizes other events for vets including a completely free (to veterans and their families) fair with 60 vendors providing everything from haircuts to sandwiches. It also connects veterans with their VA benefits when additional support is needed.
The Kanesville Honor Guard has made counseling services and support groups for those returning from war and their battle against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a point of emphasis. They offer free funerals for veterans who can’t afford them and have added the Honor Flight to its list of charitable ventures. The organization’s effort on PTSD is an aspect for which I am personally familiar and the need for support in this area is crucial.
Many domestic airlines work in conjunction with Honor Flights either providing cost-free or discounted travel. United was the designated carrier for the Honor Flight I flew, but others assist by state. For example, Spirit Airlines is the designated Honor Flight carrier for the state of Florida.
While our particular flight wasn’t able to be secured nonstop to Reagan National Airport, many of the tours are, allowing for easy transitions for veterans who may have mobility issues. United, like many others, is helpful with pre-boarding and assistance for vets who need a little extra time to board.
Mission BBQ restaurants support the National Honor Flight Network among other veteran-based charities.
Honor Flights allow communities to honor their service to their country. For businesses and individuals, it is an opportunity to give these formerly active duty vets something they otherwise have not had a chance to see. Organizations like the Wake Foundation and Kanesville Honor Guard make these trips possible at the local level and deserve our respect, appreciation, and support. I’ll have more on the exact trip I took later today.
What do you think? Have you participated in an Honor Flight? Do you know a veteran or community that would benefit?