“Thank you” is one of the most powerful statements that could be given to someone who sacrificed for their country. But, for many senior veterans who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars that simple phrase wasn’t always shared when they returned home.
Honor Flight Chicago, founded in 2008, is giving thanks to those local veterans in a big way.
Over the last 10 years, HFC has flown more than 8,000 veterans to Washington, D.C. to experience the memorials built in their honor. What would cost roughly $1,200 is completely free to the veterans.
“We are here to honor them, give them the ‘thank yous’ that those generations didn’t always get,” said Len Sherwinski, Honor Flight coordinator.
The most recent Honor Flight took off from the Chicago Midway International Airport, carrying 103 veterans – three from World War II, 14 Korean War and 86 who served in the Vietnam War.
The 91st flight was focused on Vietnam veterans – a group that has never flown before.
“That is very significant for us because we have been well known for WWII and Korean veterans. We are making sure that we honor all of them before we take the next generation of veterans,” Sherwinski said. “Our mission continues to expand to honor everyone we can.”
Each trip to the Nation’s Capital includes a special Mail Call. On the way home, each veteran will receive a package filled with letters from family, friends and community members.
Often times, opening up these packages can bring the veterans big smiles and some tears.
“Many of our veterans do not have a family support system. So, Honor Flight’s mission is to make sure that when that package is handed to a veteran, it is just as thick as the one next to the guy,” Sherwinski said. “They feel like someone really cares when they get the mail.”
The number of flights are dependent on donations.
HFC recently held a fundraising event at the Dyer Texas Roadhouse. Restaurant staff helped the organization set up an information table and a kids station where the young ones could fill out coloring pages or write notes to be given during Mail Call.
“We could all really get behind this. A hand-made card could make a huge difference for our veterans,” said Sara Johnston, Texas Roadhouse store marketer. “This new partnership is something that we would love to do as much as we can with. We really want to see them take off.”
Letters for Mail Call and donations to HFC can be mailed to 9701 W. Higgins Rd Suite 310 Rosemont, Illinois, 60018. Donations can also be sent online at honorflightchicago.org.
“Every little donation helps,” Sherwinski said.
HFC is currently looking for more veterans, volunteers and guardians to participate in other upcoming Honor Flights. Applications can be found online.
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