contributed by Sylvia Trein
On April 1, 2023, Navy veteran Steve Rich had one of the most unique experiences of his life: taking an Honor Flight. A veteran of the Vietnam War currently residing in Tamarac, FL, Rich had never heard of Honor Flights, nor did he know what to expect. His misgivings gave way to surprise, and then, joy. He told his full story to Veterans Home Care, which you can read here.
Honor Flights have been offered since 2005, but many veterans and their families know virtually nothing about what they are or how to take part in one. The following is an overview of basic Honor Flight information.
What is the Honor Flight?
At its most basic, an Honor Flight is a thoughtfully-planned day trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials honoring
our armed forces veterans. But it’s so much more than that: an Honor Flight is the opportunity to celebrate and thank the heroes who have dedicated themselves to serving our country, especially under high stakes and with great sacrifice. It is an unforgettable event for both the participating veterans and their loved ones.
What is the Honor Flight itinerary?
The group for the Honor Flight (which includes the veterans, their Guardians, volunteers, the medical team, and the flight staff) convenes very early on the day of the flight to prepare, go through security, have breakfast, and get comfortable. After the flight to the Washington, D.C. area, th
e group tours various sites by bus, including the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials, as
well as Arlington National Cemetery. The day includes a private attendance of the changing of the guard at Arlington, as well as lunch, and the return flight features a special mail call (with Honor Flight letters from family, friends, and the veteran’s larger community and elected representatives).
What is an Honor Flight Guardian?
An Honor Flight Guardian is a screened and specially trained volunteer who is passionate about honoring our service members and who will ensure their assigned veteran is comfortable, safe, and prepared for each stage of the Honor Flight experience. (Interested in becoming a Guardian? Find your nearest hub and fill out an application!)
What are Honor Flight requirements for participation?
US armed forces veterans from any branch are eligible for an Honor Flight if they were in active service anywhere in the world during WWII (12/7/1941 – 12/31/1946), the Korean War (6/25/1950 – 7/27/1953), or the Vietnam War (2/28/1961 – 5/7/1975). Priority is given to WWII veterans and any veteran of advanced age or illness. Those interested fill out an application through their nearest hub. While wait times are unpredictable, there is no need to reapply; all applications are active until the applicant is scheduled for an Honor Flight.
What if the veteran has intensive medical needs?
All Honor Flights include a crew of medical professionals, including doctors, who are well-equipped to care for our veterans’ health needs, including administering oxygen and medications. Each veteran is also given a wheelchair, regardless of their day-to-day need of one.
How much does an Honor Flight cost?
Nothing. The Honor Flight is completely free for qualifying veterans. Loved ones may purchase a spot on an Honor Flight, if they wish and if capacity allows.
Who funds the Honor Flight?
Individuals and organizations support the Honor Flight through donations. Visit honorflight.org for more details and to get involved.
If you know (or are!) a qualifying veteran, consider reaching out to your nearest Honor Flight Network hub to take part in this meaningful, memorable experience, and be sure to read Steve Rich’s personal thoughts on his own flight.
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