Honor Flight takes to the air April 19
DECATUR — Journalists and historians often refer to those Americans who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930s and through World War II as the “Greatest Generation.” Several veterans of that generation living in Arkansas and Oklahoma, along with their comrades in arms from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, will travel to Washington, D.C., April 19 for a day-long tour of the memorials dedicated to those who served in our nation’s military.
From 1941-45, 16 million American men and women served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines during World War II, of which 407,500 were killed in action. Of that 16 million service personnel (many now in their 80s and 90s), an estimated 620,000 are still alive. But that number is dwindling at an average rate of 1,000 deaths per day. It is estimated that by the year 2020, the last of the “Greatest Generation” will pass into the history books.
Honor Flight was founded in 2005 as a way to remember those World War II veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., to visit the WWII memorial. For many, this trip offered a sense of closure and a way of remembering those who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.
On April 20, 2016, the 11th year of the project, 74 veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam, along with their guardians, departed Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) enroute to the national’s capitol. Upon arrival, the group was met by several Arkansas Congressional representatives and presented with a commemorative coin. After a brief ceremony, the veterans and their guardians began the day-long tour of the memorials dedicated to those who served in five military conflicts. Upon their return, more than 300 well wishers crowded the lobby of XNA for a homecoming like no other.
The 12th annual A&O Honor Flight is set to depart from XNA at 7 a.m. April 19. This is a huge undertaking for event organizers. One of the biggest challenges is securing enough money to pay for it.
“This is a very large financial undertaking and we are seeking corporate sponsorships … to assist in sending veterans to Washington, DC. Expenses to make this flight (include the following): chartered plane, $60,000; three buses in Oklahoma and Washington, D.C., $5,500; D.C. Police escort, $1,500; shirts, $2,000, food in Oklahoma and D.C., $5,500. With other essentials that will arise, the approximate cost for one flight is $80,000,” according to O&A Honor Flight.
Seventy-nine veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam from Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma are scheduled to make this year’s flight. They will be accompanied by 81 guardians, volunteers and staff to help meet each veteran’s needs.
Festivities begin with a 6 p.m. reception at the Cherokee Casino inWest Siloam Springs on April 18. The Honor Flight departs XNA at around 7 a.m. April 19 and will return between 9 and 11 p.m., depending on weather conditions.
The public is encouraged to attend the welcome-home ceremony in the lobby of XNA. For information, call Rob Hopkins at 479-752-7203.
A Vietnam War veteran (far left) salutes a comrade in arms from the Korean Conflict in one of the touching moments of the welcome home ceremony for the 2016 Honor Flight at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill April 20, 2016.