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What To Expect
AIRPORT ARRIVAL – LOUISVILLE, KY
The day begins with the registration and check-in process at the ticket counter. Nothing new to all the veterans as we run you through the processing line, checking your name off, issuing you a shirt to wear, and matching you up with your guardian (unless of course, it is a family member).
Prior to going through security, we will have a pre-flight brief by the Mission Director. The director will lay out the ground rules and coordinate your every movement over the next 16 hours.
On to the plane as we pass through security and board our charter flight destined for our Nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
During the flight, all the veterans and guardians can rest up a bit from that early morning arrival at Louisville, and get their second wind as we land at Reagan National Airport to a nice and generous warm welcome.
ARRIVAL WASHINGTON DC – REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT
As all the veterans, guardians and Honor Flight Bluegrass staff disembark the plane, we will collectively traverse through the airport to local transportation and our designated busses. Each bus will be assigned a color, RED, WHITE, BLUE, or GREEN, as is the lanyard on your neck holding your name tag. The color of your lanyard will help you find your bus throughout the day.
Time to board the bus and be issued your first meal of the day. It is a box lunch able to keep the veteran and guardian going. Water is always available. As we board the bus and take off for the first of our memorials, we welcome the United States Park Police as they will part the seas of traffic and enable us to go from the airport to the World War II memorial in less than 10 minutes which is unheard of at 9am in the morning.
WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL
Busses will park directly in front of the Memorial entrance where often some legislators from Congress will come out to visit the veterans and the guardians. The World War II Memorial honors the service of over 16 million service members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the support of millions on the home front, and the sacrifice of 405,399 Americans who gave their life. This memorial pays tribute to the “Greatest Generation”.
After returning to the busses, every bus captains will check with guardians to ensure that the veterans needs are well taken care of. From suntan lotion to a band aid, we want to make sure that the veteran’s health is being looked always. Safety is paramount. Just a few minutes on the bus and we arrive at the Korean War Memorial.
KOREAN WAR MEMORIAL
Dedicated in 1995, its Wall of Remembrance and 19 stainless steel statues commemorate the sacrifices of the millions of Americans and allied partners who fought during the Korean War.
It is during this stop that we take some extra time to allow anyone and especially our Vietnam Veterans the opportunity to visit “The Wall”.
VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
It is here that we pay solemn respect to those 58,000+ service members who fell during these combat operations or are still listed as missing in action. There are three parts to this memorial, the Wall, the Three Servicemen Memorial, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.
Back on to the busses, as we now head across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the most sacred land in the United States, Arlington National Cemetery.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
The final resting place for more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries, buried there since the 1860s. Honor Flight Bluegrass veterans, guardians, and staff have the distinct honor and privilege of travelling through the roads, passing thousands of grave sites, as we climb the hill to the most sacred gravesite in the cemetery – The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Another benefit, our busses will park directly in front of the area where the Changing of the Guard. Being this close allows our veterans the ability to enter the facility with less than a 100 foot walk to see the Changing of the Guard.
From there, it is time to load the busses up one more time and travel back down the hill, hang a left on Arlington Blvd and drive over to the Marine Corps War Memorial.
MARINE CORPS WAR MEMORIAL
Also, known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, this memorial is dedicated to all U.S. Marine Corps personnel who died in the defense of the United States since 1775. The memorial was inspired by the iconic 1945 photograph of six Marines raising a U.S. Flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Here we gather all veterans for a group picture as they come to the end of a long and adventurous day in our Nation’s capital. At this point, it is time to load the busses one final time as we head back to the airport for a much-needed meal and a surprise from the past – MAIL CALL. Mail Call was the only form of communication for these brave men and women and receiving mail was just one attribute in boosting morale in a unit. Please as you read this, send us mail for your veteran so that he or she may have a boost of energy after a long day. Remember their sacrifices for all of us.
As we wait for our flight, it is time to regroup, clean everything up, and load the veterans, guardians, and staff back onto the flight heading back to Louisville, KY. What happens next?
WELCOME HOME CELEBRATION
Our Welcome Home will have an impact on the veterans in several ways. For example, our welcome home celebration is only as successful as the community who comes out and cheers on these heroes of our past. For World War II veterans, one last hoorah! For the Korean War veterans, a chance to recognize the “Forgotten War” heroes and show them the love they deserve. And at last, and certainly not least, our Vietnam Veterans. The welcome home for them is really their first time that they are celebrated for their sacrifice when so many in our nation turned their backs on them. America owes our Vietnam Veterans an apology every day, a thank you from every single American every day, and the utmost respect until the last living Vietnam Veteran passes on.
“Our goal with each flight is to possibly break through to a veteran that their service meant something and that their sacrifice made a difference in the life of a person two generations past their service. It is our desire to have either a veteran tell us – “that was the best day of my life” or a family member to tell us “my grand-father will not stop talking about this trip to DC”. We will take those comments any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”