Honor Flights for Veterans

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. www.janfowler.com. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

Honor Flights for Veterans

by Jan Fowler

On a recent Sunday I was invited to wear my Ms. Super Senior California USA crown and sash and join more than two hundred cheering men, women, and children who were gathering at Ontario Airport at noon to extend a surprise welcome to thirty-two United States military veterans who were returning home from Washington, D. C.

These men and women had served our country in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, and had just been treated to an all-expense paid three-day tour of memorials which were dedicated to their branch of heroic service.

For many veterans, the trip was a dream come true.

Trips such as these are made possible by 501 (c) (3) country-wide nonprofits called Honor Flight. The group which invited me to attend for the second time is Honor Flight-Inland Empire under the administrative direction of Marva X. Marva’s group reaches out to numerous veterans from Palm Springs to the Pacific, Barstow to Temecula, and covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Marva is frequently recognized for her diligent efforts to locate and honor these service men and women with the unexpected invitation to visit the nation’s capitol and tour the war memorials.

When I arrived at the Ontario airport, I felt mounting excitement as groups formed in the designated Southwest Airlines Baggage Claim area awaiting the arrival of the veterans.

Among those gathered to greet the vets with eagerness were Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, family members, friends, and numerous school-age children waving colorful Welcome Home posters, flags, balloons, and pompoms.  Small groups of service dogs were also assembled; decked out in colorful red, white, and blue neckerchiefs.

Even motorcycle riders were on cue to rev up their cheers as airport elevator doors opened to unload veterans, most of whom were pushed by designees toward the Baggage Claim area in wheelchairs.

Eighteen of the veterans were accompanied by trained guardians comprised of men, women, or family members who had volunteered to pay $1500 of their own money for the privilege of assisting vets and ensuring their safety throughout their entire three-day trip, especially with walkers or wheelchairs during the many sight-seeing excursions, including Arlington National Cemetery.

About an hour before landing in Ontario, the veterans were asked if they could ever recall returning home to a hero’s welcome after completing service to their country many years ago. Most shook their heads no. It was then that each vet was handed a packet of forty letters or so written by school-age children, teachers, and adults from all walks of life thanking them for their bravery and service to our country.

It was a privilege to be part of this heroes’ welcome, to see the surprise, tears, joy, and happiness on the faces of men and women who had served the United States when they were enthusiastically welcomed home and applauded by a cheering crowd in Ontario.  And I felt most honored to have shaken their hands as I thanked them for their many sacrifices for our nation.

Honor Flights are available to veterans from all branches of service approximately once a year, depending upon available funding. Outreach programs to veterans are supported in different ways, such as contributions from individuals, businesses, or organizations, as well as fundraisers and charitable donations.

For information local to California, you may visit the website at www.honorflightie.org.  And if you click on the California map, you will find ten hubs in California and can select the hub closest to you. Or you may contact Marva X. at gigiluvs@sbcglobal.net or at (909) 580-7363.  You may also visit honorflight.org and click on a state.

Honor Flight Inland Empire was formed in 2010 to assist veterans of The Greatest Generation in visiting memorials dedicated to their heroism.

But there are still many forgotten heroes, aren’t there?  So I would urge everyone to greet military men and women wherever we go and express our appreciation to them for service to our country.

Let freedom ring!

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