A handful of seats on a charter flight to the nation’s capital are being put aside for a few local men who served their nation during World War II.
The flight leaves from Huntington on the morning of May 11 and will bring the local veterans home before the clock strikes midnight, according to organizer Jane Julian, who works as a bookkeeper for the Honor Flight organization.
“There is no cost for the veterans except for getting to the airport,” said Julian, a native of the area who recently moved back after retirement. She continues to provide accounting services for Honor Flight because of her belief in the organization’s mission to take the nation’s military veterans, especially those who served in World War II and the Korean War, to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Julian said veterans are accompanied by a team, including three doctors, three nurses, a therapist and “guardians,” equipped with things such as extra wheelchairs. Meals, snacks and other refreshments are also provided, she said.
“We take very, very good care of them,” Julian said, explaining the “independent” nature of the World War II veterans who often arrive determined to take every step by themselves, but appreciate a good seat with wheels somewhere along the way.
“I tell them those wheelchairs are chick magnets,” Julian said, noting veterans in wheelchairs at war memorials in Washington are often the subject of considerable attention from fellow visitors.
Julian said neither she nor her husband is a veteran, and she got involved with Honor Flight after serving as a guardian. “Once you’ve done it, you are hooked for life,” she said. “When we moved back to the area I felt compelled to help provide this remarkable, remarkable trip for veterans in this area.”
Julian said the last Honor Flight from Huntington was in 2009. While she hopes to organize another flight after the May 11 trip, Julian said she wants to find local veterans to fill the last few seats.
“The flight is starting to fill up, but we do still have some seats, especially for World War II veterans,” she said, explaining veterans of Korea will be given priority if there are no local World War II vets available to make the trip.
The trips, which are paid for by sponsors, grants and donations, cost roughly $40,000 to $45,000 each, Julian said, noting a charter flight is necessary.
“There are no direct flights and you do not change planes with 80- and 90-year-old veterans,” she said, adding previous experiences with bus tours “were brutal” for many of the older vets.
“It is a lot of money, but it is nothing compared to what these veterans did for us,” she said.
For more information, visit honorflight.org or call (937) 521-2400.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.