Visiting their monument
The Honor Flight Network began in 2005. At first, the trips were made with small groups on small airplanes. However, interest quickly grew, and many honor flight groups were created across the country.
Today, the network includes 131 groups in 34 states. Each year, dozens of specially chartered commercial aircraft arrive in and around Washington, D.C., carrying thousands of veterans. Fundraisers such as bake sales, car washes and raffles raise money to pay for the cost of the flights, hotels and meals.
Volunteers lead the way for visiting veterans
Susan Stinson is a volunteer “guardian” with the HFN in Washington, D.C. As a guardian, she escorts a veteran for the duration of his or her visit, helping to make sure that the trip is a smooth one. Other guardians may accompany the veterans on their flights from their home states.
Stinson’s father, Don Normoyle, served as a bombardier/navigator on B-29s in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
“He was never able to see the completed memorial with his own eyes,” she said. “It’s a privilege to help other WWII veterans realize his dream.”
A race against time
Most veterans from World War II are well into their 80s and 90s now, and some use wheelchairs or have other health issues. It is estimated that between 700 and 1,000 U.S. WWII veterans die each day.
Because of this, many people want to thank them for their service to our country and learn about their experiences while there is still time.
This is true for veterans of other wars as well, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Veterans from these conflicts who have terminal, or deadly, health conditions also may be eligible for honor flights.
Memories and thanks
John Liebmann took an honor flight in October 2012.
Liebmann’s daughter, Wendy, lives in Washington, D.C. She went with him on his tour of the memorials.
Liebmann said everywhere his group went, people said “Thank you” and shook the veterans’ hands.
“It was all really very awesome, and quite overwhelming,” he said. “It was a great experience, and I hope they continue to do it.”
John Liebmann met former Sen. Bob Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, at the National World War II Memorial. Dole is also a WWII veteran.
When veterans arrive in Washington, D.C., they are given a rousing welcome. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, current members of the armed forces, members of Congress and even other travelers stop to clap and cheer for the veterans.