The last Central Missouri Honor Flight of the season will fly with pride Tuesday, carrying 110 veterans and the program volunteers to Washington, D.C., and back to Columbia.
The Central Missouri Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that transports veterans from throughout Central Missouri to Washington to visit several war memorials, according to its website. Donations and volunteers allow the trips to be at no cost to the veterans. This will be the organization’s 61st honor flight since its inception in 2009.
“Everyone always says, ‘You must get tired of this,’” Mary Paulsell, chapter president of the Central Missouri Honor Flight, said. “But every flight and every year or season is very unique in its own way, and really remarkable things happen.”
Paulsell said that this year, the veterans who were able to go on the honor flight have been the ones who have waited the longest.
“Sometimes that’s because they were anxious about it,” she said. “How would they be received? Would this evoke any kind of bad memories for them? What would their emotional reaction be? I think they are really surprised by how positive (the experience) is for them.”
The veterans, featuring heroes from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, were scheduled to leave the Courtyard by Marriott Columbia at 1:45 a.m. and return at 9:30 Tuesday night. Each veteran will be accompanied by escorts from the Central Missouri Honor Flight organization, many of whom are veterans of the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom themselves.
The group will go on a one-day tour of the WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Women in Military Service Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, according to a news release.
At the Tomb of the Unknowns in the cemetery, Honor Flight veterans will be acknowledged during the Changing of the Guard.
Central Missouri Honor Flights have been informally called “healing flights,” providing veterans closure and the opportunity to talk about their military experience with others, the news release said.
Paulsell said that this was especially true for Vietnam veterans this year.
“(The flight) helps them understand, in spite of how they might have been received 50 years ago, everyone today now respects them and appreciates what they did,” she said.
It costs $300 to sponsor a veteran for an Honor Flight, according to the news release.
The public is encouraged to attend the Honor Flight’s homecoming and to arrive at 8:30 p.m. at the Marriott Columbia at 3301 Lemone Industrial Drive for a good view of the returning veterans. There also will be a flag ceremony in the parking lot.
A new Honor Flight season will begin in the spring.
Supervising editor is Fred Anklam.