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"The Trip of a Lifetime" for Ohio Vets

PHOTO: An estimated 1.2 million World War II veterans remain of the 16 million who served and a project launched in Ohio helps some make a long overdue trip. Courtesy Honor Flight Network.
PHOTO: An estimated 1.2 million World War II veterans remain of the 16 million who served and a project launched in Ohio helps some make a long overdue trip. Courtesy Honor Flight Network.
November 11, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's just a one-day trip, but for many of Ohio's World War II veterans it's the trip of a lifetime. Honor Flight began in Enon in 2005, when it took its first flight of a dozen veterans to tour the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Since then, it has expanded to more than 143 hubs in 42 states.

Executive director Diane Gresse said many veterans don't fully realize how much America respects and reveres them for their sacrifices. She has seen a lot of healing take place during the tours, she added.

"When the veteran is standing there, you'll stand beside them. They're looking at the Wall of Stars at the World War II Memorial, for example, and their shoulders will just kind of slouch and then they'll kind of at the moment have forgiven themselves for being one of the lucky ones that made it back," she said.

The flights initially began with volunteer pilots with small planes, but now groups fly commercially or charter a small aircraft. There are eight hubs in Ohio, and the one-day trips are provided at no cost to veterans. A group flew out of Dayton yesterday for a tour, and another flight is scheduled out of Cleveland on Wednesday.

Funding for Honor Flight comes from individual donors, corporations and organizations. Gresse said there are also volunteers who pay their own way and serve as guardians for the day.

"We say it's like eating a potato chip: You eat one and you can't stop. Going on a trip with these men and women, it's a wonderful experience to go and to help give back and pay tribute to them," Gresse explained.

The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2005, and Gresse said the goal is to help veterans see their memorial before it is too late. About 1.2 million World War II veterans remain of the 16 million who served, but more than 600 World War II veterans die each day, she estimated.

Many hubs are also expanding and offering trips to tour the Korean War Memorial.

More information is available at www.honorflightorg.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH