Did you know that we are losing our World War II veterans at the rate of about 1,000 per day? Did you also know that the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. wasn’t opened until 2004? That means that since the average age of WW II veterans is 88, most of them have not had the opportunity to see their own memorial.
Honor Flight Chicago is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring Chicago’s WWII veterans with an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC for a day of honor to see their Memorial and other locations such as the Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial. The veterans spend an event-filled and emotion-packed day flying from Chicago’s Midway Airport via Southwest Airlines to Washington, D.C. When they return to Chicago, the veterans are given a hero’s greeting by several thousand cheering and grateful people. It is an incredible day for everyone involved.
Each flight to Washington D.C. is funded by donations from foundations, corporations, individuals and other groups who wish to help honor these heroes and recognize the urgency to get veterans to see their memorial before it is too late. No government funding is received.
Although Honor Flight Chicago exists to help veterans in their 80’s and 90’s, they take a very current approach to spreading awareness. Their active Facebook page has over 3,000 fans and people write on their wall to express their thanks and post photos, ask questions about how to get involved, find out the status of upcoming flights or inquire about how to get their veteran relative on the flight waiting list. YouTube is peppered with videos of veterans enjoying the day in Washington as well as the welcome home celebrations in Chicago. Numerous blogs such as this one have been written about the organization and the impact it has made on our remaining veterans and their families. Social media often gets a bad reputation as a place of self-promotion and random utterances. In the case of Honor Flight Chicago, social media has become a valuable way to spread the world and help out some very deserving heroes.
Here’s a video that explains a little more about Honor Flight Chicago, taken on May 11 at Chicago’s Midway Airport after the veterans had returned home. We had the honor of talking to Bill Wolf, the Illinois VFW State Commander, about his experience as a guardian on the flight.