About Greater St. Louis Honor Flight

Background

Greater St. Louis Honor Flight began flying veterans to Washington, DC in 2008. The organization was founded by two area women who were passionate about making sure the St. Louis community’s veterans had the chance to see their national memorials. By the end of the 2014 calendar year, GSLHF will have flown 45 Honor Flights, serving more than 1,200 St. Louis area veterans.

The National Honor Flight Network

The Honor Flight program was conceived by Earl Morse, a Physician Assistant and Retired Air Force Captain, to honor veterans he took care of for over 27 years. Honor Flight originated in 2005 with six small planes flying 12 World War II veterans from Springfield, OH to Washington DC. In 2006, with an ever-expanding waiting list of veterans, commercial airline carriers were used to accommodate as many honorees as possible, as quickly as possible. Partnering with HonorAir in Henderson, NC, the “Honor Flight Network” was formed and began rapid program expansion across the nation. www.honorflight.org

What We Do

Greater St. Louis Honor Flight honors St. Louis area veterans’ service to our country by providing an all-inclusive trip to Washington, DC to visit the memorial built in their honor. Most of the veterans that we serve are in their 80s and 90s and lack the physical and mental wherewithal to complete a trip on their own and often their families and friends lack the resources and time necessary to complete the trip to our nation’s capital. Most veterans have given up any hope of ever visiting the memorial that was specifically created to honor their sacrifice.

We are losing our World War II veterans at a staggering rate of 550+ per day. We are committed to doing all that we can to ensure that they get to DC before it’s too late. We are currently focused on World War II and Korean War veterans as well as those veterans from any war who are suffering from a terminal illness. However, our vision goes beyond WWII. In the future, Greater St. Louis Honor Flight plans to pay tribute to those who served during Vietnam, followed by veterans of more current wars.

ABOUT THE FLIGHTS

Each Honor Flight day begins very early in the morning at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. Volunteers begin to arrive around 3:30AM in order to set up. Veterans begin arriving around 4:00AM. Each veteran is paired with a guardian for the day – someone to provide a measure of safety and care for each of our honorees. A guardian can be a family member, but is often a volunteer from the community. With their guardians at their side, the veterans make their way through security. Breakfast is served at the gate, prior to boarding the plane. Flights depart at 6:00AM, arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport greeted by a water cannon salute – an honor reserved ONLY for retiring pilots and Honor Flights. A waiting bus takes Honor Flight participants to the World War II Memorial. Group pictures are taken and veterans are given the opportunity to experience the Memorial in whatever way is best for them. A ceremony is then held at the Missouri Pillar where fallen brothers are remembered. Often our veterans are approached by visiting strangers who want to hear stories and have their pictures taken with them. After about an hour and a half at the WWII Memorial, the bus departs. Lunch is served on the bus while our participants are taken on a bus tour of Washington, DC. Following the bus tour, Honor Flight participants arrive at the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. From there, our honorees are taken to the Iwo Jima Memorial and then to Arlington National Cemetery. Following a tour of Arlington National Cemetery, Honor Flight participants experience the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. From there we head to the Roosevelt Memorial and then to the Air Force Memorial.

Following the Air Force Memorial visit, the bus takes participants to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Upon arrival, Mail Call is distributed. Mail Call comes as a surprise to our veterans and is always a highlight of the day. Friends, family members and strangers write letters to our veterans, expressing gratitude for their service to our country. We arrive in St. Louis around 8:00PM. Upon arrival, veterans are treated to Welcome Home Celebration at the airport, attended by volunteers, other veterans, friends and family members. The experience is unforgettable.

Testimonials

“My heartfelt thanks to Greater St. Louis Honor Flight crew for the opportunity you gave me to visit our nations Capital and most importantly our own World War II Memorial. I certainly enjoyed the entire day which was full of pleasant surprises. It is nice to know that many people in the USA appreciate what we did 66 years ago and take the time to say ‘Thanks’.” — John E. Critzas, Gunner, A Co. 714th Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division

“I want to offer my most sincere thanks to all the volunteers who so freely gave their time. You provided the lucky Veterans who flew that day the most pleasurable, perfect, and memorable day we will ever experience.” — Robert Lumley Sr.

“Last year my father had the thrill of a lifetime when Veterans from his assisted living facility went on the Honor Flight. It was one of the best days of his life and he felt truly honored.” — Laine Boyd, Power of Attorney for Victor Norber

“This was a real experience for all of us to see after all the years. Again a big THANKS for making our day and all you did to brighten up a bunch of old men.” — T/5 Harlie Wilson U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division (Now a everyday civilian)

“My Dad has wanted to take this trip for quite some time and as a 90-year-old Veteran of WWII, he wasn’t sure his dream would come true. Not only did his dream come true, but also it far exceeded any expectations he ever had. Again, thanks to your organization for their hard work and dedication to honoring all the wonderful men and women who served our country so selflessly.” — Donna, Kim, and Ashley Gaghagen

“This trip to Washington, D.C. with 24 other Veterans was one of my life highlights and a wonderful experience. Thank you  for making this a memorable day.” — Philip A. Isserman