Saluting Texas Veterans
Honor Flight transports Texas veterans to national memorials
By Nola McKey
Frequent one of the state’s airports often enough, and you’re likely to witness the following: A voice comes over the PA system and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re fortunate to have with us a group of America’s Greatest Generation—World War II veterans who are leaving today for Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial built in their honor. Please join us in giving them a round of applause.” Then, a uniformed honor guard carrying seven flags (the American flag, the Texas flag, and one representing each branch of the U.S. military) leads a procession of 25 to 100 elderly veterans—some of them in wheelchairs and each with an assigned “guardian” (helper)—as they make their way through the airport to their departure gate.
'Ladies and gentlemen, we’re fortunate to have with us a group of America’s Greatest Generation—World War II veterans who are leaving today for Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial built in their honor.'
“What happens next is really a phenomenon,” says Allen Bergeron, chairman of Honor Flight Austin, a regional hub of the nationwide Honor Flight Network. “Everyday traveling citizens spontaneously line up alongside the procession, applauding the veterans, shaking their hands, and thanking them for their service. Many people tear up—it’s an emotional experience, for both the bystanders and the veterans.”
The veterans go on to visit the World War II Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and others, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., receiving acclamation all along the way. Honor Flight, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to transporting America’s veterans to the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice, provides lodging, meals, and transportation, as well as other assistance. Many veterans report being deeply moved by the experience of seeing the memorials, as well as the gratitude shown to them by the American public during the trip. Some say they have a feeling of closure as they say a final goodbye to lost comrades.
Founded in 2005, Honor Flight has served more than 85000 veterans from 117 hubs in 40 states. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. military and from all wars are eligible for the program, but World War II veterans, along with those from any war who have a terminal disease, receive top priority.
“Time is not on our side,” says Bergeron. “World War II veterans are dying at about 800 to 900 a day. We’re trying to identify as many eligible veterans as possible and raise funds to make more of these a reality.” To contact the hub nearest you, volunteer, or make a donation, call 937/521-2400, or visit www.honorflight.org.
From the September 2012 issue.