Veterans program Honor Flight ready to take off again in 2022

After it was grounded due to rising Covid cases, Honor Flight plans a comeback

From the September 2019 Honor Flight. Photo courtesy: Flag City Honor Flight.

Flag City Honor Flight was founded in 2010 — a 100% volunteer-run, non-profit organization in Findlay, Ohio, that takes approximately 80 veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, each trip to Washington D.C. to experience the memorials built to honor their sacrifice and service. 

The Honor Flight is funded through donations and is free for veterans of those wars. Flag City believes that all veterans should have this opportunity and are committed to making those visits possible because not every veteran has the ability financially or physically to travel to see the memorials that were built for them. 

Honor Flight attendees boarding a bus in October 2019. Photo courtesy: Flag City Honor Flight.

The Journey
Flag City is an independent hub of the Honor Flight Network which includes not only Findlay but all northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan. Each veteran is paired with a “guardian” — a volunteer who accompanies them for the entire trip.

The day starts with breakfast at a special hangar at Toledo Express Airport. The breakfast gives veterans the opportunity to meet each other and talk about their experiences before they board their flight. Ranging in age from 60 to 90 and having fought in either World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, one General noted that these experiences bring generations of service people together, give them a feeling of pride, and set an example for those men now serving in the United States Armed Forces. 

Upon landing, there is a greeting at the terminal before going on to the monuments in Washington D.C. The World War II Memorial is divided between the men who served in the Atlantic and the Pacific and by state so that veterans from Ohio can even leave tokens for those they knew who didn’t make it home from the war like one veteran whose brother died in The Battle of the Bulge. United States Senator Bob Dole, who recently passed away and was a World War II veteran, served as an ambassador at the Memorial greeting veterans and their guardians at its entrance nearly every Saturday during the Honor Flight season. 

Welcome Home
Upon returning to the Toledo Airport, the men are given a hero’s welcome complete with flags, applause, music and salutes. A representative from Flag City Honor Flights described its significance like this, “If a veteran did not return from WWII to a major city, they most likely came home to empty train and bus stations. You were asked to go back to your families and continue your life. Korea was much the same, and the Veterans that returned home from Vietnam were largely treated very poorly. We believe that all of the veterans deserve a proper and well-deserved welcome home.” However, they note that some of the specifics of the welcome home may be altered this year to align with protocols for Covid. 

Honor Flight participating in the 2019 July 4th parade. Photo courtesy: Flag City Honor Flight.

A Sense of Urgency
When Honor Flights began in 2006, of the 16 million who served in World War II, 3 million were still living and 1,500 were passing away every day. The World War II Memorial wasn’t even built until 2004 — 54 years after the war ended — so many men would never get the chance to see the Memorials created to thank them for their service. After all, as one man who raised money to bring veterans to Washington D.C. said, “I look at it this way, everything good that I have in my life is because of them.” 

Last fall Flag City Honor Flights had to cancel their 2021 season due to rising Covid cases — a decision that was difficult to make. As of January 1, 2022, those Honor Flights will resume with the first one taking place in late spring. 

You can find detailed information on Flag City’s website about flights, becoming a volunteer, or even a guardian. Flag City has said, “We are very excited to return to taking Veterans on One More Tour… with Honor.”