Al Arnold, a member of the Villages Honor Flight program, was the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club of Clermont on May 29. The Villages Honor Flight is part of a national network that flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the military memorials. The organization is a non-profit organization that was created in 2004, to honor American veterans from Lake, Sumter, Marion, Citrus and Hernando Counties.
The Villages Honor Flight has completed 39 missions with over 1000 veterans flying. They do four flights annually two in the spring and two in the fall. The Villages HUB is one of seven Honor Flight Hubs that cover the State of Florida. Any Honorably Discharged veteran, who resides in the above counties, is eligible to participate in an honor flight at no cost to them. All mission costs are paid for by donations from sponsors and fundraising activities.
On the day of the flight, the veteran is paired off with a Guardian whose responsibly is to ensure the arrival of the Veteran to the Villages and accompanies him/her for the entire length of the trip. Guardians who accompany the veterans as assistants pay for their own flights. Currently,paper work the cost to the Guardian is $250.00. The qualifications for the Guardian are that he/she is not over 75 years of age and has been accepted after filling out the paperwork. Accompanying the flight is a sufficient number of medical personnel to care for any medical needs of the Veterans.
The Villages Honor Flight is an independent hub of the national organization. Top Priority is given to senior veterans such as WWII survivors and those who may be terminally ill. Arnold 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 “homecomings,” 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 and normally accommodate 40 vets and 40 guardians each trip. Mr. Arnold informed us that the recent trip consisted of three busloads of Veterans and their Guardians, which more than doubled the number of participants that are normally served. 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. The first “homecoming” 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. Al Arnold distributed applications to the veterans who were in attendance and urged us to fill them out and send them in.
At the conclusion of this Presentation, President Chris Boylan presented Al Arnold with a Commemorative Club Pin.