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Honor veterans with Honor Flight

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Many Americans don’t understand the commitment soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines make when they enter the military. Whether by draft or enlistment, every single one signed a check made out to the United States of America for an amount “up to and including my life.” And because only about 7 percent of Americans have made that commitment it is imperative that we pledge to caring for these heroes.
There are thousands of veteran’s organizations. This is a story about a unique organization – Honor Flight.
Very simply, the mission of Honor Flight is to take World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans to Washington D.C. to see “their” memorials.
Honor Flight has grown from a few private pilots flying a handful of veterans to over 130 “hubs” across the United States, flying 300-plus missions every year. To date, Honor Flight has flown well over 250,000 veterans to their memorials. The Louisville hub – Honor Flight Bluegrass - has flown more than 2,000.
This year, Honor Flight Bluegrass will conduct three missions: June 5-6, June 27 and Sept. 17. These flights will take another 250 veterans to see their memorials.
The flights are totally free for veterans. Every veteran is accompanied by a guardian. Guardians may be friends, family members, or community volunteers. While there is no cost for veterans, the guardians pay for their trip. The current guardian fee is $500.  
Serving as a guardian is simply one of the best days you will ever have. Being a guardian for a father, mother, grandfather, uncle or aunt is a day that you will never forget - a day with these precious relatives that are in their sunset years. As a volunteer guardian it is an opportunity to say thank you to these amazing men and women who have done so much for our country. 
Honor Flight’s priority is to our oldest veterans. World War II and Korean veterans get precedence. About 1,000 World War II veterans die every day. Likewise, Korean and Vietnam veterans are dying at an alarming rate.
Honor Flight Bluegrass has but one mission - to honor these veterans with a trip to Washington D.C. – as many as possible, as fast as possible.
Honor Flight typically flies 85 veterans, 85 guardians, medical staff, bus captains, media and our own entertainment.
The trip is normally a single day event: (the June 5-6 flight will be the first two-day flight). Veterans are welcomed at Louisville International airport about 6 a.m. and return about 9:30 p.m. It is a long but thrilling day for the veterans. While in Washington D.C., veterans will visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and Arlington National Cemetery for a changing of the guard and finish up at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Depending on the trip, veterans will sometimes see the Air Force Memorial, and the Women’s’ Memorial. A police escort insures a quick uneventful tour of the memorials
Every caution is taken with our honored veterans. Honor Flight travels with a medical director and three medical professionals. The trip is on three buses, each with a bus captain and a medical professional. Wheelchairs and oxygen are provided as needed, and the flight can accommodate most of our older veterans. 
But the best is yet to come. Most veterans never got a welcome parade. Many were treated indifferently, and many with outright hostility. Upon return to Louisville, these honored veterans are welcomed home by about 1,000 people. Friends, relatives, active duty military, Patriot Guards, Color Guards, and community members fill the airport with signs, flags, cheers and tears.
As these men and women get off the plane after 15 hours, and trudge down the concourse towards the terminal, they start to hear a bit of noise. As they make the last turn and see the crowd, these 70, 80 and 90-plus-year-old men and women are all 18 again. They stand up straight, they sit up straight in their wheel chairs, and tears begin to flow. From the veterans, from the guardians, from the crowd, and yes, even from mission staff that have experienced this many times.
We know Honor Flight has accomplished our goal when many of the veterans and the guardians come up at the end of the day and say, “This is the best day of my life.” It’s how we know Honor Flight is important.
Honor Flight gets no government funds. The organization is 100 percent volunteer operated, and 100 percent community-funded.

How you can help
Chartering planes and making these flights are expensive. While flights are partially funded by guardian fees, the majority of the cost has to come from our donors. It costs about $500 to fund a veteran on a trip. 
You can also help us find veterans. Our oldest veterans are becoming fewer and harder to find. If you know any WWII, or Korean veterans, encourage them to apply. If you don’t know if elderly friends, neighbors or relatives are veterans – ask. 
To apply as a veteran, a guardian, to donate or just to learn more about Honor Flight, visit our web site at www.honorflightbluegrass.org. Our mailing address is Honor Flight bluegrass, P.O. Box 991364, Louisville, KY 40269. The phone number is 1-888-998-1941.