Barbara Cooksey, a member of the Board of Directors and the Chairperson of the Speakers Bureau for the Villages Honor Flight program was recently the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club of Clermont. She said that the Villages Honor Flight is part of a national network that flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the military memorials.
Villages Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that was created in 2004 to honor American veterans from Lake, Sumter, Marion, Citrus and Hernando Counties. Any Honorably Discharged veteran, who resides in the above counties, is eligible to participate in an honor flight at no cost to them. Guardians who accompany the veterans as assistants pay for their own flights. Ms. Cooksley said that the Villages Honor Flight group is an independent hub of the national organization and that Top Priority is given to senior veterans such as WWII survivors and those who may be terminally ill. She said that the typical day of the flight begins very early in the morning when they assemble at American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake and meet up with their assigned guardians for the day. They are given a military welcome and send-off by an Honor Guard as they board buses for Orlando International Airport.
Following a commercial flight to the D.C. Area, buses take the group to Arlington National Cemetery to see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Air Force, WWII, Korea and Vietnam Memorials. Each flight has two local “home comings,” one at the airport and the official Home Coming at American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake approximately 22 hours from the opening ceremonies.
The Villages Honor flight flies to D.C. four times a year taking 40 vets and 40 guardians each trip. For veterans who are unable to travel or need an alternative to the long day, Villages Honor Flight has a Flightless Honor Flight for them. The entire day is replicated virtually and the mission is completed in five (5) hours instead of 22 hours. Flightless missions simulate everything that would normally occur at the airport, in DC, etc. So the first “home coming” is simulated at the venue where the event takes place but the second is at the Legion Post 347.
For more information about the flight or for an application to fly as a veteran or guardian visit their website at www.villageshonorflight.org or call (352) 432 1382. Barbara distributed applications to the veterans who were in attendance and urged us to fill them out and send them in.