Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will complete its 16th flight on Saturday, and with 220 WWII veterans on board the organization is pleased to announce it has now given the free trip to everyone on the waiting list for the event.
Here is more information taken from a press release from the organization:
This flight, on two chartered Delta 757 aircraft, will take 220 WWII veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a one day free trip to Washington, DC to see their memorials. This will be the last big double plane trip of all WWII veterans. The oldest veteran on this trip is 97 years old and the youngest is 83.
"In 2010 we started Operation Resolve as a commitment to get as many WWII veterans as possible off our very long wait list and on their Honor Flight before it was too late for this elderly population," said Joe Dean, chairman of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. "We are thrilled to announce that after this November 3 Honor Flight, we will be able to say that Operation Resolve is now Operation ResolveD.
"We are taking veterans who signed up just this fall. So essentially, there is no longer a wait list. From now on, when a WWII veteran signs up, he or she flies on the very next trip."
To date, SSHF has taken 2,237 veterans from southeastern Wisconsin to see the WWII Memorial and other memorials in Washington, DC. The trip is completely free to veterans. Guardians pay $500 for the privilege of escorting a veteran on the trip.
On Saturday, 448 WWII veterans, guardians and medical staff will report to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport at 4:30 a.m. and return at 8:30 p.m. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the "Homecoming Celebration" in the airport’s main terminal.
For the first time, SSHF will also be taking two students on this Honor Flight. The students are an 8th-grader and 10th-grader from the Grafton School District who earned a seat on this Honor Flight through a SSHF essay contest.
"We piloted the essay contest in Grafton and plan to take it to several counties next year, " says Renee Riddle, board member for SSHF. " Our secondary mission at SSHF is to share the stories of the Greatest Generation with today's school children. We feel the essay contest is the perfect bridge to make that connection in a meaningful way. Students were asked to find a WWII veteran from Wisconsin who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The winning students were asked to give an eulogy to their veteran while at Arlington this Saturday. In fact, some of the family members of the veterans featured in the student essays plan on meeting us at Arlington to hear the students give their eulogy. It should be incredibly touching."
The story of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is also being told in a documentary film titled Honor Flight. The film was selected as the feature opening night film at the Naples, Florida film festival November 1 and also set a world record for the largest film screening ever when it premiered at Miller Park on August 11. Honor Flight will also play in selected Marcus theaters statewide December 5-7. On December 4th, the film will be screened at the US Capitol.
Honor Flight is a national program with 117 hubs from coast to coast. The WWII Memorial did not open until 2004 and many veterans are unable to visit it without assistance. According to the VA, a WWII veteran dies every 90 seconds in the US. The average age of a WWII veteran is 89 years old. Nationally, Honor Flight has taken 100,000 veterans to see their memorials.