CHICAGO, June 12, 2013 - This morning, 86 World War II veterans were sent off in style during a pre-boarding celebration at Midway International Airport prior to their day trip to the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight Chicago (HFC).
While in the nation's Capitol, the veterans will experience a day of remembrance and reminiscing for some who have waited more than six decades to see the memorial. In addition to visiting the WWII Memorial, the veterans will also travel to the Iwo Jima, Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. The National WWII Memorial commemorates the 16 million who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort at home.
Today's flight included John and Cecilia Varey, who have been married for 66 years. The couple, who live in Lisle, Illinois, served in the Army and Nurse Corps respectively. Another married couple, Linda and John McClenahan, served as the Varey's guardians on the trip.
James Reid, 87, served in the Navy from 1944-1946 as an artillery specialist. Decked out in his uniform, Reid said he was very excited to make the trek to the National Memorial with his son, John. "It's really great to be recognized like this," Reid said.
Another sailor, Seaman First Class Tellis Burris, traveled from Plainfield, Illinois to Midway for this special event.
Over 1,500 family, friends and supporters are expected to welcome the veterans when they return to Midway this evening. In addition, dozens of active duty military personnel; the USO of Illinois; and Chicago Police Department Pipes and Drums Corps will participate in the festivities.
This is Honor Flight Chicago's third flight of the 2013 season which runs through the end of October.
Nearly 4,000 World War II veterans have made the trip to Washington, D.C. since 2009. HFC officials estimate there are as many as 25,000 more eligible veterans in Northern Illiniois.
In order to reach those who have yet to make the trip, HFC has launched a new effort - Operation Locate a Hero - to identify and recruit those veterans for upcoming Honor Flights. The effort will include over 100 specially-trained volunteers who will speak to local community and veterans' groups to raise awareness of HFC. The volunteers will also assist veterans in completing and submitting their applications for the flights.
Honor Flight Chicago and Southwest Airlines facilitate the all-expenses paid trips for the Chicago-area veterans. The United Services Organization (USO) also assists with the event.