Honor Flight Columbus executed the All Life Foundation sponsored Mission 103 yesterday, the first of 6 planned flight days this Fall, Thursday August 19th, 2021, after 649 days of COVID shutdown (Mission 102 was November 9th, 2019).
Mission 103 included 118 senior Veterans from 63 towns and cities across Ohio. Participants represented the Army (67), Navy (25), Air Force (14), and the Marine Corps (12). Conflict eras represented World War II (1), Cold War - WWII-Korea (1), Korean War 11, Cold War - Korea-Vietnam (9) and Vietnam (95 - 51 of which served in-country). The average age of the Veterans on this trip is 77 years.
This was the second Honor Flight in the country to visit Washington DC since conditions aligned to permit safe travel (the first hub to visit DC was Honor Flight Chicago on Wednesday).
It was hot in DC - however there was a pleasant Chesapeake Bay breeze blowing, and plenty of shade at most of the stops. We visited Iwo Jima, Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, Air Force Memorial, Navy Memorial, World War II Memorial, the Nations "front yard" - one taking the iconic walk along the reflecting pool from WWII to Lincoln and another group stopping at the MLK Memorial with a beautiful view of the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, then finished the day with dinner at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The Welcome Home may have been short and lacking in pomp and circumstance, but love, adoration, and appreciation filled the airport. It was a great day.
America's senior Veterans, which to Honor Flight Columbus means any Veteran with active duty service prior to May 7th, 1975 is eligible to apply for an Honor Flight. If you are a qualified Veteran, or know a qualified Veteran, we respectfully suggest... an application.
Most of these Veterans had applied in 2018 and have been patiently waiting (many of whom had been booked on the suspended flights in April 2020). Sadly, 72 Veterans on the waiting list passed away since our last flight. This is fuel for our drive to execute our mission to its greatest extend.
We were pleasantly surprised to to discover over 94% of our Veterans were vaccinate for COVID-19. We were pleasantly surprised to discover over 300 of our Guardians were vaccinate and ready and willing to serve.
In order to do this important work, we need to be vaccinated, simply put, all of us, specifically meaning anyone participating in the Honor Flight Columbus fall flight season (Veterans, Guardians, Volunteers, anyone coming into close proximity to our Veterans - for the health of all parties). In order to reduce crowds (and traffic) we are flying on Thursdays. Every participant was screened and assessed for COVID-19 risk. We complied with airline, FAA, federal, state, local jurisdictional rules, regulations, and guidance. The only safer course of action would be to not fly. It is certainly the simple option. In my opinion, that is not a legitimate option.
We are constantly reviewing our practices, and making moves (and sometimes waves) to enhance and preserve the Honor Flight experience EVEN in these oscillating pandemic times.
Our next flight, the Vance Outdoors sponsored Mission 104 is on September 9th, 2021.
Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime! If you are a hub trying to figure out how to DO rather than not, I'd love to share our experience, methods, and thoughts!
Executive Director, Honor Flight Columbus