“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they walk by,” volunteer Will Rogers said.
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.
Of all 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. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.
As of 2018, over 170,000 veterans have been taken to D.C. since 2005. There are 130 locations around the U.S. that host Honor Flight and fly the veterans to D.C., with 45 states involved.
Veterans are flown on a “first-come, first-served basis.” Within the applicants, top priority is given to WWII veterans and any veteran with a terminal illness. The next priority is to Korean War veterans and then Vietnam veterans.
Each veteran is granted up to two family members, friends, or a spouse to come with them, but they would have to pay for their own transportation, hotels, food and any other expenses. If the veteran doesn’t have anyone to go with them, they will receive a volunteer to go with them, but the same rules apply to the volunteers as well.
Their funding comes exclusively from individuals and organizations who recognize and wish to honor the great accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans. Significant contributors have been fraternal organizations like the local American Legion, VFW, Am Vets and others. They also receive funds from major sponsors like Kwik Trip, Festival Foods and more.
People can volunteer in many different ways. One could take the veterans to D.C. and help them around, or volunteers can be at the airport when they get back to their home airport and clap for them and make them signs. The purpose of this is to give them the welcome home that they didn’t receive when they came home from their wars. I participated in that part of it a couple of years ago.
For me, it was a completely different experience than I was expecting. I didn’t even want to go to begin with, but my mom made me. She made me help her make a sign for the veterans. I didn’t understand the purpose, and I didn’t want to waste a Saturday night volunteering.
When we got there, all the volunteers were scrambling to do last minute things like decorate, put goodie bags together and prepare anything that could make that moment truly unforgettable.
Time was running out, and we started lining up by the terminal to greet the veterans. I was holding the sign I had made with my mom not knowing what to expect. I was almost nervous.
My mom left me to be at the end of the line to give the veterans their goodie bags. What was I supposed to do? Should I just stand there holding the sign and put on a fake smile?
I soon got answers to these questions. I held the sign, but I didn’t have to fake a smile. Seeing the veterans faces light up like they were back in the 1940s coming home from WWII for the first time was a site I will not forget. They were crying and so was I.
In the end, we all get put in uncomfortable situations, but it’s usually those uncomfortable situations that we learn the most from.