For the past 4 years, Sauk Valley veterans have been guests on all-expenses-paid Honor Flight trips to tour military memorials in Washington, D.C.
Most trips have gone uneventfully. The daylong itineraries include round-trip flights between Moline and Washington, and tours of national monuments and memorials.
Thursday’s Honor Flight was slightly different.
The flight’s departure was delayed 3 hours because the airplane struck an owl.
Certain memorials were closed because of the partial government shutdown.
The U.S. Capitol was put on temporary lockdown after a female motorist rammed a barricade at the White House and eventually was shot dead by police.
Nevertheless, nearly 60 area veterans received the red-carpet treatment as they took an abbreviated tour that still included stops at the Korean War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, and National World War II Memorial.
Completion of the World War II Memorial in 2004 was the impetus for the Honor Flight movement. Organizers reasoned that many aging World War II veterans would never get to see it without help. A national organization was created, money was raised, and Honor Flight took flight.
Since then, nearly 100,000 World War II-era veterans have taken the trips to see the memorials. Because their numbers are dwindling, the Honor Flight focus shifted to Korean War-era vets. Of the 92 total veterans on Thursday’s flight, 90 served in the Korean War era, with two from World War II.
Enthusiastic welcomes upon their arrival in D.C. and upon their return home are something that most veterans will remember.
One happy veteran, Daniel Frankfother of Milledgeville, said: “I thought it was great. I won’t forget it. I must’ve shook a thousand hands.”
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Honor Flight is a noble way for people to honor and thank veterans of past wars.
We salute the people who help organize, pay for, and carry out these trips.
And we salute the veterans who served their nation in its time of need.