BROOMALL–Four coach buses full of World War II, Vietnam War, and Korean War veterans were welcomed home after nearly a 12-hour trip on Sunday, Sept. 9, to Washigton, D.C.
In all, 102 aging war veterans from across Pennsylvania–including those from the Delaware County area–took a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials as part of Honor Flight Philadelphia's latest tour.
Honor Flight Philadelphia's first trip to the memorials in Washington, D.C., with a welcome ceremony in Drexel Hill. This year, the veterans were welcomed with a motorcade led by Warriors' Watch Riders.
All expenses are covered for the veterans, and each veteran had a volunteer or "guardian" with them throughout the trip for any assistance or aid they may need. Many of these men and women are now in their 80s and 90s with some requiring wheelchairs. With the help of VITAS, a hospice care, 50 wheelchairs were donated to veterans in need. According to one representative from Honor Flight Philadelphia, the oldest veteran on this Honor Flight is 101.
In addition to the World War II Memorial, veterans toured the Arlington National Ceremony where three veterans participated in a wreath laying ceremony and the Women's Memorial, where one women veteran on the trip was honored. Veterans also toured the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Lincoln memorials.
Veterans received a warm welcome by local fire officials–from both and –military officials currently serving overseas, Philadelphia Eagles mascot Swoop, Mummers' Greater Overbrook String Band, family members, friends and the Philadelphia-area community.
Other local volunteer groups and organizations such as local American Legions, Knights of Columbus, Girl Scout Troops #5680 and #5120, Boy Scouts Troops #503 and #512, Cub Scout Troop #240, and many more waited in the church parking lot for the welcome ceremony.
And, still, there were a few veterans who welcomed home their fellow brothers and sisters on Sunday night. member Albert C. Condo, a World War II veteran, hopes to attend the next Honor Flight down to Washington, D.C. Condo, whose brother, Richard H. Condo, was killed while serving in Italy during World War II, hopes to honor him by visiting the memorial next spring.
Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-2) and Delaware County Councilmember John McBlain were also present at the ceremony to honor the veterans. Although Congressman Pat Meehan (R-7) could not make the ceremony, Andrew Colket, of Meehan's Military and Veterans Affairs Office, presented a certificate recognizing Honor Flight Philadelphia and read a statement on behalf of Meehan:
"Although I am unable to join you this evening, I hope you will accept this certificate as a small token of appreciation for your efforts to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans. Honor Flight Philadelphia is a remarkable organization and you deserve recognition. Every veteran should see the memorials and monuments that were built in their honor, and this is what you are accomplishing. A day trip to Washington, D.C., and a wonderful evening of dining and entertainment does not begin to express the thanks that our country owes to our veterans but is certainly a start. Thank you to all the veterans for your service and sacrifice."
Veterans enjoyed dinner and entertainment by the Manhattan Dolls, who sang songs from the WWII era and a dinner prepared by of Newtown Square. Other local businesses also chipped in other ways: of Newtown Square donated boxes of bananas, donated cases of juice, McDonald's donated breakfast for each veteran and guardian, and the Swiss Farms in Springfield donated cases of water for the tour.
Honor Flight is a national non-profit organization founded in 2005 to give aging or terminally ill veterans a day of honor in Washington D.C.
The Philadelphia hub was started by Springfield resident Andrew Schiavello. According to Schiavello, the next Honor Flight Philadelphia is expected to be scheduled for next April.
Honor Flight Philadelphia is dedicated to giving thousands of local veterans the opportunity to visit their war memorials in Washington, D.C., at absolutely no cost to our servicemen. Honor Flight was conceived in 2004 by retired Air Force veteran Earl Morse who was working as a physician’s assistant at the VA in Ohio and a private pilot. In May 2005, with the help of dedicated volunteers and donated funds, 12 World War II veterans were taken to the WWII memorial in Washington, DC. s America loses more than 1000 WWII Veterans per day, the Honor Flight Network strives to offer a “Tour of Honor” to each and every one. As of 2011, the Honor Flight Network has transported more than 84,000 Veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam to memorials.For more information on Honor Flight Philadelphia, visit their website at www.honorflightphiladelphia.org.