The enormous value of Honor Flights for WWII veterans came close to home when the southwestern Michigan chapter, called Talons Out, brought 89 veterans and many more of their guardians and helpers to Rim & Rail in Vicksburg on October 26. The veterans were honored with a “meet and greet” by Talons Out volunteers with a chance to tell their war story to the whole audience.
The veterans boarded an early-morning chartered flight to Washington D.C. the next day. They were escorted through the city to see the war memorial in their honor. It was an opportunity for the veterans to share their stories if they desired to. The whole experience can be a very emotional time, said lead volunteer Bobbie Bradley from Three Rivers.
The Oswalt family, owners of Rim & Rail, made their new facility available to Talons Out at no cost. They felt compelled to help make this a worthy occasion for the 200 plus who filled the dining room. They weren’t the only ones who gave their time to make the trip a special memory. Volunteers and guardians from all around the area were present, including some from Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, Bradley said.
It costs $90,000 to charter the plane that departed from the Kalamazoo Airport. The overall cost runs on average $110,000 for meals and lodging as the trip is entirely free to the veterans chosen to embark on this sentimental journey. All of these costs are covered by donations, Bradley said.
The veterans are selected from applications made by their family, with those who are terminally ill getting first dibs. For the first time this year they are accepting veterans from the Korean War and a few from the Vietnam fighting.