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Thank You For Your Service

The Greater St. Louis Honor Flight Celebrates Its 100th Flight Honoring Veterans

If presented with the opportunity, here are two things you should absolutely do: strike up a conversation with a veteran wearing an Honor Flight hat by asking them about their flight and escort a veteran on their Honor Flight.  

Nov. 1, 2022, marks a milestone for Greater St. Louis Honor Flight as it makes its 100th mission escorting veterans to Washington, D.C. Launched in 2008, Greater St. Louis Honor Flight has flown over 2,500 local veterans to the capital for a very full day dedicated to thanking them and honoring them for their service to our country. It's an indescribable, moving, memorable, and sometimes life-changing experience.  

 
"The Greater St. Louis Honor Flight is a game-changer in the fall of their lives," stated Rick Randall, Kirkwood resident and board member for the organization. "It reassures the veterans that they have done well." In fact, the flight to Washington, D.C., and back was so powerful that it completely changed one veteran's perception of coming home. "I remember coming home from Vietnam," said Ray Rutter after his Honor Flight. "I was yelled at and accused of horrible things by people when I returned home from serving. I didn't even see combat. I worked an office job when I was in the service. People made me feel horrible when I came home. I felt isolated and disgraced," Ray paused to wipe a tear away and continued, "But this day, this Honor Flight makes up for all of that. Coming home on this Honor Flight was one of the best days of my life."  

 
"Whether a veteran served in a desk job at Fort Bragg or in a foxhole in Vietnam, the entire day is filled with people showing love and respect for the veterans and their service," stated Rick. "At the end of the day, the veterans walk down the airport terminal seeing their wives, children, grandchildren, active-duty service members, and strangers standing, applauding, cheering, hugging, and crying. People who haven't seen this experience up close and in person haven't seen the depth of emotion and smiles on their faces."  

 
It's a big day with a packed itinerary starting at 3:30 a.m. in the Southwest terminal at Lambert. The energy and enthusiasm of the day are exciting to watch as the veterans gather. Once the plane lands in D.C, the veterans are met by an active-duty officer who welcomes them to the capital and encourages them to share their stories throughout the day. Greater St. Louis Honor Flight strives to keep those stories alive, ensuring that future generations appreciate veterans and how they served on behalf of every single American.  

Highlights of the day in D.C. include visits to multiple commemorative war memorials, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and surprises along the way. And while it's a full day, it's very manageable for both walking and wheelchaired veterans. Along with an abundance of volunteers and health professionals, each veteran has a guardian whose sole purpose for the entire day is to ensure their veteran's experience is safe and profound. I was honored to be my dad's guardian on his Honor Flight.  

Before his flight, my dad proudly wore his Korea War veteran hat everywhere. But I haven't seen him without his Honor Flight hat since he straightened it as he boarded the plane for Washington, D.C., with 60 veterans who served in Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.  

One of the most incredible ways to say, "Thank you for your service," is by supporting the veterans on their Greater St. Louis Honor Flight. For more information, visit GSLHonorFlight.org

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