Most of us know at least one Hoosier veteran – whether it's our father, niece or neighbor. These brave men and women dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom, and we must take every opportunity to thank them for their service.
This spring, I encourage you to get involved in a cause to recognize a very special group of Indiana veterans – those who fought in World War II.
About 17 million Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII, and almost 400,000 were Hoosiers. Today, Indiana is home to around 28,000 WWII veterans.
The national Honor Flight Network is dedicated to honoring WWII and other veterans by flying them out to Washington, D.C. so they can visit and reflect at their memorials, which may not otherwise be financially or physically possible for them.
Indiana has three Honor Flight branches, one of which is located in our community. Honor Flight Northeast Indiana flies about 140 veterans to D.C. each year at absolutely no cost to participants.
Two flights are scheduled this spring on April 30 and May 28, and 70 WWII veterans are scheduled to participate in each flight. The flights leave from Fort Wayne's 122nd Fighter Wing in the morning, where the veterans receive a send-off from current military members. They spend the day touring D.C. and then arrive back home in the evening.
After the spring flights, Honor Flight Northeast Indiana will have coordinated 13 flights since its founding and taken 840 veterans to see their memorials.
Honor Flight Northeast Indiana is looking for volunteer help to make this project even more meaningful for these veterans. You can write letters thanking the veterans for their service, which will be delivered to them when they arrive in D.C. Store-bought cards, handwritten letters and even pictures drawn by children are all welcome.
The salutation on your letters can be "Dear WWII Veteran," or can be addressed to a specific veteran who will be on the flight. Please send all mail call items to:
Honor Flight Northeast Indiana
P.O. Box 5
Huntertown, IN 46748
Event coordinators are also seeking volunteers to greet Honor Flight veterans when they land at Fort Wayne International Airport on the evenings of April 30 and May 28. Volunteers are asked to arrive at the airport by 9 p.m. with American flags, "Welcome Home" signs or patriotic banners. This will give these veterans the grand homecoming that many never received.
More than 200 WWII veterans from Northeast Indiana are on the waiting list to participate in a flight and any contributions help.
If you'd like to nominate a Northeast Indiana veteran for an honor flight, download the application at www.hfnei.org. For out-of-state veterans, nominate them by finding an Honor Flight branch in their region at www.honorflight.org .
I encourage you to be a part of this great cause. This is just a small way we can show our appreciation for the immense sacrifices these veterans have made for our country.