Several World War II and Korean War veterans will receive royal treatment Saturday as they head off for a free flight to tour Washington D.C.
Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices.
They arrange free transport of WW II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans, WW II and Korean War survivors, along with those vets who may be terminally ill.
Middle Tennessee Honor Flight veterans’ scheduling coordinator, Sgt. Major (E-9) Larry E. Williams, U.S. Army/Retired, of Monteagle, hopes local folks will show up to send these fine veterans off.
An honor flight transport bus departs from the Walmart parking lot in Winchester Saturday at 3:15 a.m.
He said, “And, though a bit early in the morning, I assure you that it will be the beginning of a magnificent day for these heroes; as well as for yourself.
“Those who have been at one of our bus pick up locations for a past honor flight know the great joy these men and women of iron feel to see you there representing your/their community; if you have not been present for an Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee ‘send-off,’ here is your opportunity to do so.”
From Winchester, the bus will pick up additional veterans at 3:45 a.m. in Tullahoma’s J.D. Stamps parking lot. Another pickup will be made at the Coffee County Admin parking lot at 4:15 a.m.
From Manchester, the bus heads to the Nashville Airport so vets can board a Southwest Airline flight that will take them to tour the National World War II Memorial, which honors the 16 million U.S. armed forces who served and the more than 400,000 who died in battle.
About Honor Flights
Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant at the Veterans Administration in Springfield, Ohio, came up with the idea for honor flights. After noticing how few of the WW II vets that he treated had made the journey to see the memorial that honors them, he took action.
In a prior media interview, Morse said, “They dedicated the WW II memorial in May of 2004, 60 years after the war had ended. That was a cause of celebration in my clinic.
“All of the veterans wanted to see it, but they were in poor health or didn’t have the means to visit it.”
Morse realized most would never see their memorial. So, he took action and presented a plan to a local air club, asking them to help provide free flights for these heroes.
The first honor flight took off the following year, at no cost to the veterans. Six planes flew 12 veterans on the first flight in May of 2005. That number has increased each month so that today the honor flights operate like a volunteer airline with 86 hubs in 33 states. Donations from local organizations keep the planes in the sky.
So far, across the United States, close to 140,000 veterans have experienced a visit to their memorials, courtesy of Honor Flight Network. Honor flights are continuing regularly in the U.S. in hopes that the less than 10 percent of surviving WW II warriors will take the free tour.
The visit to see their monument often provides closure for these veterans, some who open up at the memorial and speak in detail for the first time about what they went through.
After their whirlwind trip to DC, Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee vets are transported home the same day, landing mere hours after taking off in Nashville.
One thing that’s become apparent to those who’ve chaperoned these flights is that these elderly soldiers appear refreshed instead of exhausted by their trip.
Williams is grateful for the opportunity to help honor these veterans and says, “We are all in great hopes that citizens will visit us for a sendoff at one of the bus pick-up locations, or at the Nashville Airport. Thank you for honoring these brave men and women, who have served our country in uniform.”
Southern Middle Tennessee Honor Flight was reestablished in 2008, renamed and incorporated in Tennessee as the Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee in 2013. Cost per flight is $18,500 to $20,000. Guardian cost is $400. A flight is scheduled in the spring and fall each year.
For information, to volunteer or to donate to Honor Flights of Middle Tennessee, call Williams at (931) 924-3000 (home)/ (931) 224-3226 (cell) or Chairman Claude Morse, USAF/Retired at 931-247-5151.
—By LINDA STACY, The Winchester Herald-Chronicle