Honor Flights to Washington, D.C.’s war memorials increased significantly after Labor Day, as D.C.’s fabled heat (theoretically) transitions to a more favorable fall climate. Groups from Arizona, Florida, Idaho and Chicago were some of the first to arrive in the nation’s capitol earlier this month after the federal holiday.
Honor Flight Chicago celebrated its 74th flight since its inception, with 108 participants including 18 World War II and 90 Korean War Vets, in addition to the required support staff of more than 125 dedicated volunteers.
Their day began much earlier than the 6:45 a.m. flight from Midway Airport-Chicago, to Dulles, Virginia. They boarded buses and drove to the Iwo Jima Memorial where they were met by police motorcycle escort which guided them first to the Air Force Memorial for a performance by the Air Force Drill Team, before crossing the Potomac to the National World War II Memorial.
The group toured the memorial until a color guard honored the Veterans with pomp and circumstance. Center of the group, Arthur Kapinus, 89, a WWII Navy Veteran, held the flag-case filled with portraits of veterans dear to members of the Honor Flight Chicago family.
Art was accompanied to D.C. by his brother Bernie, an 81-year-old Army Veteran who served in Korea during the mid-50s. All told, eight Kapinus brothers have served in the military, mostly in the Army and Navy, since World War II. Their brother Joe, whose picture joined five others in the case, served with General Patton and was killed in Luxembourg in January 1945, at age 29.
John Ptak, president of Honor Flight Chicago is not a Veteran, but he has accompanied these flights since 2011, this his 20th trip.
“This is my grandfather, he was in the army in WWII. He passed about 20 years ago, so he didn’t get his Honor Flight,” you can hear emotion in his voice, as he gingerly touches the photo strung round his neck. “I didn’t get a chance to take my grandfather, so I take other people’s grandfathers”.
Some braved the humidity and heat in the 90s and ventured off to the Korean War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial before heading back to Dulles Airport. There was time scheduled to visit the relatively new Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum before boarding their flight back home with an ETA after 8pm.
More than 100 additional Honor Flights from around the nation are planned through December with the last for the year currently scheduled for Pearl Harbor Day.
Find out more about the Honor Flight Network, how you can become involved, donate, and meet Veterans as they tour D.C. here: https://www.honorflight.org/