Months of planning get Honor Flights off the ground

The plane that will take 70 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. sits on the tarmac at Fort Wayne International Airport prior to boarding.
The plane that will take 70 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. sits on the tarmac at Fort Wayne International Airport prior to boarding.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Before Honor Flight Northeast Indiana can take 70 World War II veterans to Washington D.C. for a day, dozens of volunteers work hard for months to get everything ready.

Wednesday’s trip is the third of 2013 and planning started in July.

“There’s a lot of paperwork involved, notification involved and logistically we have to charter a full size airliner, we do that six months out, and book three tour busses to use in Washington,” Bob Myer, the president of Honor Flight Northeast Indiana, said.

There’s also a breakfast before the veterans leave and two meals on the trip. Then there’s organizing all the volunteers. Along with the 70 veterans on the Honor Flight, there are 79 volunteers who fly with them. Another 50 people will help serve breakfast and check in veterans at the airport hangar.

“We have wonderful volunteers, both on the board and the other groups that volunteer, and we have people calling all the time wanting to help out. It’s great to have great volunteers and of course it keeps the cost down,” Myer said.

Each honor flight costs around $55,000. Wednesday’s flight is expected to be closer to $60,000 because of extra expenses after the government shutdown. Usually Honor Flight uses the 122nd Fighter Wing, an Indiana Air National Guard base. But, because of the government shutdown, the organization couldn’t use the base. Now the flight will use Hanger 39 at the Fort Wayne airport.

“It’s going to be a little more expensive because we’ve had to cater here and rent tables and chairs and porta johns,” Myer said.

Honor Flight asks the volunteer guardians who go on the trip to Washington D.C. to make a $400 donation to help pay for part of the flight costs. The majority of the funding, however, comes from individual and corporate donations.

Honor Flight Northeast Indiana hopes to take another three groups of veterans to Washington D.C. next year.

The public is invited to send off the veterans Wednesday at 7 a.m. at Hangar 39, which is to the west of the main terminal at Fort Wayne International Airport. They can also welcome the veterans home in the same location at 8 p.m. There is free parking available in the long-term parking lot.

To learn more about how to get involved with Honor Flight Northeast Indiana, click here or call (260) 633-0049.

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