Supplement to “Honoring Heroes.”
“Four years ago, I was asked to volunteer on the Honor Flight,” says Billy Garwood, director of ground services for Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter and mission director for that day’s flight to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial with the group of WWII veterans.
“It was the best day I ever had.” A veteran of the Vietnam War, Garwood took on the responsibility of building, repairing, and maintaining a fleet of wheelchairs crucial to the program.
Established on May 21, 2008, the Louisville-based Bluegrass Chapter is one of the newest hubs of the Honor Flight Network, which operates Honor Flights nationwide throughout the year.
According to Captain Brian Duffy of the Bluegrass Chapter, the first Honor Flight flew on May 21 also, but three years earlier, in 2005, with six small planes carrying 12 WWII veterans from Springfield, Ohio, to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial. Partnering with HonorAir in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Hero Flight in Provo, Utah, the Honor Flight Network was formed. It continues to aggressively expand its programs to other cities across the country.
The trips are from the Louisville International Airport and are open to any WWII veteran who has never been to the World War II Memorial. Most importantly, all heroes fly for free; in fact, the entire day, including transportation, sightseeing, meals, and more, is free for veterans.
Veterans travel with or are assigned a guardian whose role is to tend to the needs of those being honored, from gathering up their belongings at airport screening checkpoints to helping them on and off the sightseeing bus to bringing them coffee at dinner. A mission director organizes the itinerary and conducts the tour.
The day includes a continental breakfast, a box lunch served on the bus from the Baltimore airport to the WWII Memorial while watching a documentary on its controversy and construction, visits to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial commemorating Iwo Jima, snacks, dinner, and transportation.
In 2009, the Bluegrass Chapter operated five flights, transporting 204 WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. In 2010, four flights transported 160. For 2011, the goal of this chapter is to take at least one charter flight of more than 110 WWII veterans at once to see the WWII Memorial, in addition to other flights.
The Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter will focus on Korean and then Vietnam veterans subsequent to the WWII veterans.
For more information, go to www.honorflightbluegrass.org.
To read the Kentucky Living May 2011 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Honoring Heroes.