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News June 2012

Health, Wellness & the Good Life

Honor Flight Network Flies Vets to WWII Memorial at No Cost

By Lynn Pribus

By the end of 2011, HFN had brought more than 81,000 veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam to see their respective memorials. It is always a powerful experience for the veterans and volunteers alike with many tears and an overwhelming sense of pride.

My husband and I wandered alone at dawn through the inspiring World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., realizing full well the peace and silence were very different from what veterans of that terrible war experienced. When we returned later that day, there were crowds of tourists chattering, people laughing and even children running about. At first this seemed disrespectful, but then I realized this was exactly what our veterans had fought for – children playing happily and free from fear – and I wished every veteran could see this wonderful place. Unfortunately, nearly 1000 WWII vets pass away every day. Many survivors are frail and others simply can't afford to make the journey.

Enter the Honor Flight Network (HFN). In May of 2012, this remarkable organization celebrated its seventh anniversary of bringing World War II veterans to the Memorial. Starting with a 2005 flight of six small private planes from Springfield, Ohio, HFN has expanded its mission of bringing as many veterans as possible to visit the Memorial via commercial airline carriers. The response has been overwhelming and many veterans have been able to visit even though about half of the vets in the past three years use wheelchairs.

In fact, by the end of 2011, HFN had brought more than 81,000 veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam to see their respective memorials. It is always a powerful experience for the veterans and volunteers alike with many tears and an overwhelming sense of pride.

"It is very emotional," declares Marine veteran Bob Doherty, of Williamsburg, Va. He's the founder of the Historic Triangle Hub and has volunteered on six trips – each with about 100 veterans representing all the services and just about every battle. "For a lot of these vets, it's the first time they've maybe talked about their experiences. It brings back lots of memories and it's overwhelming." He explains that each state has a pillar at the memorial and vets often stand by their state's pillar and ask someone to take their picture.

"Inevitably," Doherty continues, "other visitors – total strangers – will come up and thank them for their service. You'll see a couple vets with a bunch of teenagers asking about the war and what they did. Many of these guys – most in their late 80s – are quite articulate about what they went through. It's a wonderful experience for them with a lot of camaraderie. It's most of these guys' last hurrah."

Amazingly, there is absolutely no cost to the veterans except for minor souvenirs they might wish to purchase. The flights, hotel accommodations and transportation in D.C. are all covered by donations to HFN.

How Can a Veteran Take an Honor Flight?

The Honor Flight Network website offers links to locate the "hub" closest to a specific veteran. (Veterans in areas with no convenient hub are likely to fall under the "Lone Eagles" program and should apply directly to the headquarters.) There are listings with phone contacts for 115 hubs in 40 states, each flying vets from a specific airport and staffed with volunteers who raise funds and schedule flights. Many hubs have their own websites answering Frequently Asked Questions, providing the appropriate application form and other information

To glimpse some moving videos of HFN trips, just enter "Honor Flight Network" at www.YouTube.com. HFN receives no government sponsorship and funding comes primarily from individuals. Other significant contributors have been local posts and chapters of groups like the American Legion, VFW, AmVets, DAV, Military Order of the Purple Heart and various corporations, often at the local level. Southwest Airlines and Hilton Hotels are significant sponsors. Tax-deductible donations can easily be made at the website and are most welcome because, as HFN points out, there aren't many years left for these WWII veterans.

"It is truly Honor Flight Network's privilege to fly our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the memorials built in their honor," declares the HFN website. "The goal for 2012 is to fly at least 25,000 veterans. And remember," the website continues, every veteran flies free. We will not accept a donation from a World War II veteran who has not benefitted from an Honor Flight trip."

For more information www.HonorFlight.org, call 937-521-2400 or write: Honor Flight Inc. 300 East Auburn Ave. Springfield, OH 45505-4703

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Lynn Pribus and her retired Vietnam-era Air Force husband live in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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