They were young. They went through basic training, then on to more advanced instruction before being assigned to the next state or half way around the world. They operated heavy artillery, or commanded ICBM missiles, or flew rescue helicopters, or handled classified information, or commanded a tank, or sat on the ocean bottom in a submarine. They were in the infantry, or were a radio operator, or a medic, or an aircraft mechanic, or a cook, or radar repairman, or maybe an electrician. They endured rocket attacks in Vietnam, and cold weather in Korea, and dark, wet seas in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They were wounded, suffered from malaria or was seasick from crossing high seas during a storm. They had fun, built life-long friendships, made good memories or saw horrible things that no teenager should have to endure.
And, now in their senior years, five World War II, 20 Korean War and 56 Vietnam War era Veterans, with four of them coming from the US Air Force, 53 from the Army, five from the Marines and 19 from the Navy, including one SeaBee, will all gather before dawn on the morning of Tuesday, June 20th, to take their Land of Lincoln Honor Flight (LLHF) to Washington, DC. They will have had an opportunity to have a pre-flight dinner the night before, along with their family and Guardian escort, at the VFW Northenders Post 10302. Afterwards, hopefully, they received a good night’s rest before flight day from Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
At no expense to the Veteran, their special day will begin aboard a chartered 737 aircraft, landing at Reagan National Airport in DC. From there, these heroes will be transported by three luxury tour buses to view and reflect at the national memorials built in their honor – the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. The itinerary will also include visiting or seeing the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National Air & Space Museum, Air Force & Marine Corps Memorials, the Pentagon and will conclude at Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
Veterans on this flight converged from the 48 Central and Southern Illinois cities and communities of Altamont, Astoria, Beecher City, Bethalto, Browning, Carlinville, Chapin, Chatham, Cisco, Collinsville, Decatur, Edgewood, Effingham, Emden, Franklin, Girard, Godfrey, Greenfield, Havana, Illiopolis, Ipava, Jacksonville, Kenney, Louisville, Manchester, Metamora, Minier, Morrisonville, Mt Zion, Newton, Normal, Oakley, Oblong, Ogden, Pana, Pawnee, Pekin, Pleasant Plains, Robinson, Rochester, San Jose, Shelbyville, Springfield, St Marie, Sullivan, Taylorville, Watson and Williamsville.
These Veterans are scheduled to return back to Springfield around 9:30 PM, and family, friends, strangers and the general public are invited and encouraged to show their appreciation to these Veterans by welcoming them home at the airport. All should feel free to dress in red, white & blue colors, bring balloons or posters, and show appreciation to these heroes with hand shakes and hugs. Come early, enjoy free parking and show you care about the sacrifice and service they gave to the country. Where else can you meet 81 heroes all in the same place at the same time?
Veteran applications continue to be accepted, with flight priority given in the following order: World War II (person enlisted by 12/31/1946), then Korean War Era (01/01/1947 to 12/31/1957), followed by the Vietnam War Era (01/01/1958 to 05/07/1975). Any certified terminally ill Veteran should contact LLHF directly.
Because every Veteran flies with a Guardian escort, a trained family member or independent volunteer, who pays their own way and ensures the Veteran has a safe and comfort trip on their special day in Washington, DC, applications for Guardians are also currently being accepted.
Veteran or Guardian Applications may be obtained at www.LandofLincolnHonorFlight.org, then click Applications, then click & print the application of choice. LLHF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that receives no government funding or grants. It is only able to honor the Veteran with a trip to DC due to the generous donations, sponsorships, fundraising events, merchandise sales and supporting efforts of the many local businesses, individuals and organizations within their service area. Please visit the web site to make a donation, consider holding a fundraiser, book a board member speaker, check the calendar or to obtain more information on the Honor Flight mission. Also consider following LLHF on their Facebook page to stay current on upcoming events and flights throughout the year.