Since 2005, the Honor Flight Association has been flying WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., at no charge to allow them to view the World War II memorial. As the number of surviving veterans has continued to decrease, Honor Flight has invited Korean War and Vietnam veterans to participate as well. Each veteran makes the trip with a guardian, who pays a modest amount to help with the expense of the trip, but veterans fly for free, thanks to generous donations from businesses and individuals.
Chaplain John Murdoch’s “backyard” neighbor, Jim Wright, is a Korean War veteran. John, director of GARBC Chaplaincy Ministries, and Jim share a chain-link fence. Over the last 18 years, they have held many conversations and drunk many glasses of iced tea over that fence, developing a good friendship. When John learned about Honor Flight and knew Jim had never seen the Korean War memorial, he asked Jim if he would like to go on an Honor Flight with John as his guardian. Jim responded with an excited yes. In 2013 they added their names to the wait-list, and they were able to make the trip on April 3.
John says, “It was a joy for me to be able to take Jim on this trip. It was a full day, getting up by 0330 to meet at the staging area by 0445 to fly out of Indianapolis and spend the day in Washington. We entered Reagan National Airport to cheers and the West Point Alumni Chorus singing patriotic songs. People along the way cheered and thanked the veterans for their service. One little girl came up to Jim and gave him a hug. It was a challenge to keep our composure.
“We got a windshield tour of Washington and spent two hours visiting the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam memorials. Some memories of the wars were spoken, while others could be read on the veterans’ faces as we entered into and roamed about the memorials. Our final stop was Arlington Cemetery, where we observed the Changing of the Guard. Our group entered with a respectful silence. We were honoring comrades who had paid the ultimate price. I counted it a privilege to assist Jim and to be allowed to participate in this very meaningful and personal trip with him.”
On the return flight that Saturday night, the veterans had mail call, and each one received a package of mail from family, friends, and schoolchildren. Back at the staging area in Indianapolis, they were welcomed by federal and state elected officials and a gym full of people cheering to honor these great American heroes who helped purchase the freedom we enjoy today. It was after 11 p.m. when everyone exited the gym, but all the veterans were still smiling.
If you are a World War II or Korean War veteran or a family member of a veteran, don’t delay. Time is running out, and this trip is well worth any effort to attend. Honor Flight does its best to go above and beyond for these brave men and women. All participants are well tended to throughout the trip. Honor Flight has the resources to provide the medical and ambulatory items veterans will need. Medical personnel attend the group and medical facilities are available if needed. Age is not a factor. For information, visit www.honorflight.org to make connections to your part of the country. (Note from the Honor Flight Association: www.honorflight.com and www.honorflights.com are not associated with Honor Flight, Inc. Their listed links are to companies who charge a fee for flights. The flights and tours that we provide WWII and terminally ill veterans are absolutely free.)
Visit www.indyhonorflight.org to see pictures of Jim and John’s trip.