02 Nov Let Freedom Ring! Honor Flights for Veterans
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.
“Let Freedom Ring! Honor Flights for Veterans”
I recently had the honor and privilege of being invited to wear my “Ms. Super Senior California USA” crown and sash to join more than one hundred cheering men, women, and children who had crowded together at Ontario Airport to extend a surprise welcome to twenty-four U.S. veterans who were returning from Washington, D. C. These veterans had served 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 heroism.
Veterans’ trips such as these are made possible by 501 (c) (3) country-wide nonprofit organizations called “Honor Flight.” The specific group which invited me to participate 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.
For many veterans, this trip is a dream come true.
Marva is frequently thanked 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. And in view of the dwindling number of World War II vets, many also express gratitude for having lived long enough to even take this flight.
When I arrived at the Ontario airport, I could feel the mounting excitement as groups began to form in the designated Southwest Airlines Baggage Claim area. Among those gathered together 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 engines as airport elevator doors opened to unload veterans, most of whom were being pushed by their designees toward the Baggage Claim area in their wheelchairs.
Many of these veterans were accompanied by “trained guardians” comprised of men, women, or family members who had volunteered to pay approximately $1500 of their own money for the privilege of assisting vets and ensuring their safety throughout their entire three-day trip, especially with walking, during the many sight-seeing excursions which included Arlington National Cemetary.
Just before the veterans landed on their return flight back to Ontario they were asked if they could recall ever returning home to a hero’s welcome upon completion of service to their country many years ago. Most shook their heads with emotion then were overcome with tearful disbelief as they listened to the unexpected announcement which followed. This time, they were told, they were to prepare for a hero’s welcome.
It was then that each vet was handed a packet of twenty-five letters written by school-age children and adults from all walks of life which expressed deep gratitude and appreciation for their bravery and service to our country.
And in instances where veterans who had signed up for the trip had died prematurely before the trip took place, their families were offered the opportunity to send their deceased’s ashes, along with a photograph, on a round trip Honor Flight anyway. Many families found deep comfort and solace knowing that their loved one was not “left behind” after all.
We are often told that numerous veterans do not open up to members of their families to talk about or share some of the atrocities of war which they experienced and suppressed. Yet being with others who experienced similar traumas provides them with the chance to share experiences which they had kept bottled up within themselves for decades.
Outreach programs to veterans are supported in different ways such as contributions from individuals, businesses, or organizations, as well as fundraisers and charitable donations.
Honor Flights are available to veterans from all branches of service approximately twice a year depending upon available funding, and cover the complete costs of round trip transportation, meals, lodging, and military tours in Washington, D.C
“Honor Flight—Inland Empire” was formed in 2010 to assist veterans of “The Greatest Generation” in visiting memorials dedicated to their heroism.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or at (909) 580-7363. You may also visit honorflight.org and click on a state.
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.
But there are still many forgotten heroes, aren’t there? So let us all do our best to greet military men and women wherever we go and express our appreciation to them for service to our country.
Let freedom ring!