WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Honor Flight Dayton returned to carrying out its mission of taking area veterans of World War ll, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to Washington, D.C. to visit their war memorials.
The long-awaited return began with two trips, one in late August and another in mid-October, allowed more than 200 area veterans to travel, along with guardians and HFD staff aboard a chartered jet to our nation’s capitol.
One long-standing supporter and sponsor for Honor Flight Dayton is The Troy Foundation, who sponsored the October flight. Melissa Kleptz, President and CEO, said The Troy Foundation stands behind the Honor Flight Dayton organization.
“I’ve gone as a Guardian myself,” said Kleptz, “that whole trip is so incredibly planned out and so impactful on the veterans that go.”
Veterans and their Guardians for the October trip arrived at the Dayton International airport at what many military vets would refer to as “oh dark-thirty” … around 3 a.m. where the process of getting everyone checked in began.
Boarding the aircraft for the 55-minute-flight began around 6 a.m. with the flight departing before 7 a.m.
Veterans got a glimpse of things to come when their aircraft was taxing to the ramp under the crossed streams of water from a pair of fire engines at Ronald Reagan Airport.
Inside the terminal, hundreds of well-wishers, in spite of the early hour, greeted the vets with cheers and signs. Everyone then boarded one of four large motor coaches to begin the day’s journey.
Among the stops on what Kleptz referred to as the “well-oiled machine” that makes HFD so efficient, were the Vietnam, Korean War, and World War ll Memorials. One of the most popular, and solemn, stops is at Arlington National Cemetery where veterans quietly observe the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The Lincoln Memorial is only a short distance away and a number of veterans take time to visit the memorial to our 16th president.
Lunch is delivered to everyone during a stop at the U.S. Air Force Memorial where a moving ceremony is held to honor those veterans who are no longer with us. A flag is folded and placed on an empty wheel chair as “Taps” sounds.
As the day’s touring wound down, the busses made one final stop, this time for a late-afternoon meal hosted by T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria. The school became well-known following the release of the 2000 film “Remember the Titans.“ The student R.O.T.C. class fell out with a large Honor Guard and the culinary arts students served a delicious meal including lasagna and fresh vegetables.
The group’s next stop was at the airport and a flight home.
Veterans were surprised again as thousands of well-wishers greeted them as they left the terminal. Bands, signs, pin-up girls, were lining the airport to give the veterans the triumphant return the many were not given when they returned from serving our country.
Honor Flight Dayton currently has one more flight scheduled, this one in April of 2023.
For more information on Honor Flight Dayton, to sign up an eligible veteran or to travel as a Guardian, visit www.honorflightdayton.org .