DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Veterans from around the Miami Valley spent the day in the nation’s capital on the final Honor Flight Dayton of 2022.
Out of the 102 veterans scheduled to go on Saturday’s trip, two of them served in World War II, about 10 served in the Korean War and the rest served in Vietnam or were on active duty in between wars.
The trip is contained within one day and includes airfare, bus transportation while in Washington D.C., meals, t-shirts and disposable cameras.
Join the Honor Flight Dayton virtually as 2 NEWS will update this article throughout the trip.
0630: Departure from Dayton International Airport
A call time of 3:30 a.m. failed to dampen the spirits of over 100 veterans Saturday morning.
Traveling from all over Ohio, veterans and guardians checked in at Dayton International Airport to begin their Honor Flight trip.
After passing through TSA, veterans patiently waited to board and were served coffee, juice and snacks. Guardians met for a brief meeting to discuss the big day ahead.
When it was finally time to board, veterans in wheelchairs were taken on first. Others waited and chatted, many laughing and talking about the trip.
For Vietnam Army Veteran Jim Schmenk, this is his first time visiting the capital since the construction of the Korean and World War II memorials.
Schmenk described his experience so far, “I’m amazed right now. All the volunteers. All the people that put this thing together. It’s amazing.”
When asked about what he was most excited for Schmenk said, “All of it. The whole trip.”
0800: Arrived at Ronald Reagan National Airport
Following the bends and curves of the Potomac River, the Honor Flight plane landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport just before 8 a.m.
As the plane came to a stop on the runway, local fire departments honored the veterans with a water spray over the aircraft.
A fanfare of music and clapping met the veterans as they made their way off the plane and through the gate.
Veterans and guardians then boarded the charter buses, excitedly awaiting the day ahead.
1000: Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery was the first stop for the Honor Flight veterans.
Veterans and guardians walked around the grounds, paying respect to those in the rows upon rows of graves in the cemetery.
At 10 a.m. veterans gathered behind the amphitheater to watch the Changing of the Guard.
Positioned behind the chains that open off the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, everyone remained silent and showed respect for the ceremony.
1200: Air Force Memorial and Lunch
The veterans and their guardians stopped for lunch and a group picture at the Air Force Memorial around noon.
Many veterans took the time to rest and reminisce about their day so far.
Vietnam Veteran Bill Pollard who had been stationed in DC from ‘89 to ‘92 said he liked the Air Force Memorial, but said his favorite part so far was seeing a woman take part in the Changing of the Guard.
“That was impressive. Especially with the young lady,” said Pollard. “There’s only been six of them ever. And we got to see it.”
1330: World War II Memorial
Youth cadets from the Civil Air Patrol greeted the veterans as they took on the next stop in their Honor Flight trip: the World War II Memorial.
After hearing the cadets thank the veterans and shake their hands, tourists and the surrounding public joined in an applause as the veterans walked into the memorial.
The flowing fountains definitely helped make this memorial a favorite among the veterans.
Out of the 102 veterans on today’s Honor Flight, only two of them are World War II Army veterans: Tom Kremer and Charlie Sanders.
“What’s my favorite place we’ve been today? World War II,” said Kremer. “I was in World War II and I’m 96 years old.”
Honor Flight Dayton gives first priority to veterans like Kremer, 96, and Sanders, 100, so that they have a chance to see their memorials.
1530: Vietnam, Lincoln and Korean Memorials
The tone was somber while visiting the Vietnam Memorial.
Veterans filed down the stone pathway, searching for the names of long lost comrades and friends. Some even made a graphite rubbings of the names.
The Korean Memorial proved to have the same impact. Veterans searched the newly constructed Wall of Remembrance for names as well.
While at the Korean Memorial, Cold War US Air Force Veteran Dan Wolfe shared a story from the day, “I had a woman come up to me and put her arm on me. She’s crying, thanking me because her kids can go to school here in the United States.”
In between the memorials, veterans had the chance to see the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Reflecting Pool and National Mall.
1700: Dinner at Alexandria City High School
After a long day of walking around Washington DC, everyone finally settled down for dinner.
Upon arrival, veterans were met by a tunnel of ROTC students as they entered Alexandria City High School, formerly known as T.C. Williams High School, the school seen in the 2000 film “Remember the Titans.”
While veterans and guardians enjoyed their meal, ROTC students went around talking with veterans about their experience in the capital and thanking them for their service.
Other students from the school had also volunteered and were helping clear tables and get drinks.
To these veterans, that high school is no longer just the school from “Remember the Titans,” it’s the school where its students treated them so well.
Before leaving, those who were able gave the students a standing ovation to show their thanks.
2000: Departing D.C. back to the Gem City
Spirits were high as the veterans’ time in DC had come to an end.
The entire Honor Flight crew unloaded the buses and headed through TSA in a breeze.
While waiting to board the plane, a dance party ensued at the gate.
Classic tunes blared from the PA speaker and passersby were turning their heads to get a look at the party.
Even 100-year-old Charlie Sanders was dancing from his wheelchair.
Once on the plane and settled in, veterans were surprised with mail call.
One by one, veterans received a personalized package of letters from family, friends and strangers.
Most were completely shocked, but they all seemed to love the surprise.
2200: Over 1,200 welcome home veterans back in Dayton
Just when the veterans thought their day was over, they were greeted by family and friends at the gate at Dayton International Airport.
Making their way into the lobby, over 1,200 people were waiting to greet and welcome home the veterans.
Families, military, friends and strangers all met in the lobby of the airport to celebrate the veterans.
Once everyone had made it into the lobby, the entire group ended their day with the National Anthem.
The veterans had finally gotten the welcome home that they deserved after all of these years.
Learn more about the Honor Flight below:
The Honor Flight Network has been taking veterans to the nation’s capital since 2005 and has so far served more than 245,000 veterans through over 100 hubs across the country. The trips give veterans the opportunity to see their war memorials and they are accompanied by volunteers called “guardians.”
During the trip, guardians accompany veterans and provide assistance and help to make sure their trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible. Guardians do pay for their trip, and in 2019 the cost was $450 tax deductible.
If you are interested in being a guardian on a future Honor Flight Dayton trip, click here.
Upon their return to Dayton International Airport, veterans will be greeted by active-duty military, family, friends, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Band, organizations and many more.
The public also has the opportunity to welcome them home. According to Honor Flight Dayton, the veterans will be returning around 9 p.m. on Saturday.
“Help show our appreciation to these men and women for the sacrifice they made for our country by coming to the airport to greet the flight when we return,” says Honor Flight Dayton’s website. “Most of these veterans returned home with very little thanks for their service. This is our opportunity to change that.”
If you wish to participate, more information is available here.
The Honor Flight program is free for all veterans who qualify. Veterans are accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis with World War II and terminally ill veterans taking first priority, followed by Korean War and Vietnam veterans.
Honor Flight Dayton receives no local, state or federal government sponsorship and is funded by individuals and companies who wish to recognize and support veterans. Fraternal organizations like the local American Legion, VFW, Am Vets, and DAV also contribute. To make a donation to Honor Flight Dayton, click here.
Check the schedule here for updates.