Hoopeston, Illinois, is a small city of about 5,000 people located just outside of Danville. Tiny towns like Hoopeston may not enjoy the grandeur of larger American cities, but veterans from towns like these have been getting to experience some big-city amenities, thanks to groups of local volunteers.
Hoopeston resident and World War II veteran Glenn Brandenburg, 87, took to the skies on October 17 for a flight to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. thanks to the Honor Flight Network. The nonprofit make vets’ dreams come true by providing them a complimentary flight, complete with VIP service and meals, to their generations’ respective memorial.
Most flights currently service World War II vets, as that generations’ numbers are rapidly declining. Moving forward, Korean veterans and Vietnam veterans will receive similar service. While one of the veterans’ benefits is the complementary nature of their trip, guardians – the veterans’ chaperones – pay about $500 for their flight.Because honor flights are so popular, long waiting lists can often be a problem.
“I signed up two years ago when I first heard about it,” Brandenburg told the Commercial-News. “There were too many ahead of me then. Last week, I received a call to go.”
Many other veterans have taken advantage of the same service. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, 70 World War II veterans made the same trip. On September 22, about 100 veterans from the La Crosse, Wisconsin, area also embarked on the adventure.
Veterans are treated to a breakfast before being flown to Washington, D.C. for the day. Typically, veterans either visit the World War II memorial or have the opportunity to visit a variety of memorial spots.
“We got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Terri Whereatt, guardian and daughter of the La Crosse region’s Robert Whereatt, told the Tomah Journal.
The first official Honor Flight took off from Springfield, Ohio, in May 2005. By the end of 2011, more than 81,000 World War II veterans had participated in the event. According to Fort Wayne news source WANE, trips are funded by donations from individuals and private organizations. Guardians pay their own way in order to supervise vets who need assistance walking or are in a wheelchair. About 96 percent of all donations go directly toward the veterans’ trips.
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