Friday morning, seven Carson City veterans were flown to Washington D.C., to visit the national war memorials with Honor Flight Nevada.
Honor Flight is a program that raises money to fly veterans to Washington D.C., to see the various memorials for the wars they fought in. The program is run 100 percent through donations, and pays for airfare, travel and lodging, completely free of charge for the veterans.
“A lot of them haven’t seen their own memorials,” said organizer Jon Yuspa. “But the vets don’t pay anything because they have already paid with their service and sacrifice.”
Any vet who served in any war, based on age and health is accepted into the program. Typically, they can take about 56 total, however some trips there are less veterans depending on how many caretakers they also need to take care of the travelers.
This trip, they have 53 veterans for the weekend, from all branches of the military, including veterans from World War II. They flew out Friday morning and will return to Nevada Sunday afternoon.
For Margaret Green-Wilson, volunteering to be a guardian on this trip is a way for her to be connected with her father, who served in the Air Force for 24 years.
“My dad was stationed in Washington D.C., and I haven’t been back since (that time) so it will be a great chance to see Washington D.C. again and be able to help folks who were my dad’s contemporaries,” Green-Wilson said. “I want to help show them a good time and an honorable experience.”
Green-Wilson will be one of those in charge of taking care of the vets; making sure they are okay, providing physical support and making sure they’re enjoying themselves. This will be her first time traveling with Honor Flight and she said she was excited.
“I wish I could have done this with my dad because they just do such great things,” said Green-Wilson. “They try to give the best possible experience to sort of replace what may have been a tough time.”
Yuspa agrees the trips are all about the veterans and giving them the best trip.
“It is all about the vets’ experience,” Yuspa said. “Most of them are strangers when they start on the trip, but by the time they go home it is like they are family.”
He said there’s a lot of bonding between the veterans, especially because most of them have the same experiences and can feel comfortable with each other over that common bond.
“A lot of them will tell us that it is the highlight of their life,” Yuspa said.
In addition to the trip, each vet gets a package of letters from loved ones and supporters, expressing their gratitude for their service, and crowds line up at the airport to welcome the vets home from their trip.
To provide each veteran with the trip is about $1,000 each, but in the five years the program has been running it has been able to raise more than $1 million. Yuspa said many big donors give them money because 100 percent of it goes back to the veterans.
“It takes a village to come together and support the program,” Yuspa said.
For more information or to donate to the program, visit honorflightnevada.org.