LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It’s called the “Honor Flight,” a special flight, carrying veterans from Central and Eastern Kentucky, to Washington, D.C. for veterans to visit and reflect at war memorials for their service, sacrifices and memories.
2015’s Honor Flight leaves Blue Grass Airport early Saturday morning with 70 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. This is the first flight from Lexington where all veterans are from Central and Eastern Kentucky, the organization says.
The nation is losing more than 1,500 World War II veterans daily and more than 500 Korean War veterans daily, they say. Honor Flight Bluegrass hopes to take as many veterans to their memorials as possible.
ABC 36’s Paris Lewbel spoke to Al Smith, a legendary Kentucky journalist and a World War II veteran, who will be on the flight tomorrow. Smith says Saturday’s Honor Flight will be a time for him to reflect back on the war and remember friends that he lost.
The veterans will spend about an hour at the National World War II Memorial, 90 minutes at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, nearly two hours at Arlington National Cemetery and an hour at the History of the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima), Honor Flight Bluegrass says.
According to Honor Flight Bluegrass, veterans on this flight include a paratrooper who fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge; a pilot who flew in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and also flew during the Berlin Airlift; a B-24 waist gunner who was captured by the Germans when he had to bail out of his aircraft over France and spent a year in Stalag 17-B; a B-24 pilot who flew missions over North Africa, China and Burma; a rifleman from the 91st Infantry who earned three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart; and a husband and wife, both veterans, taking this Honor Flight together.
When the veterans gets back there will be an elaborate welcome event at the airport, the organization says. The welcome-home event starts around 9:15 p.m. and is open to the public and will feature:
- Bagpipe leading veterans through security back into the main area of airport
- Veterans organizations
- Boy Scout Troops and local school groups
- ROTC Cadets from the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University
- Patriot Guard Riders
- Civic organizations
Veterans will travel for free to their memorial courtesy of donations, which provide airfare, ground transportation and meals for the Central and Eastern Kentucky veterans and their guardians who travel with them to ensure that everyone has a safe and memorable experience. Nearly 200 veterans from Eastern and Central Kentucky are on the waiting list for flights next year.