COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Thursday is going to be a big day for dozens of veterans from central Ohio, who are going to be taking the trip of a lifetime.
Honor Flight Columbus is taking them to see memorials all around Washington D.C. The non-profit organization has taken more than 8,000 veterans on the trip, but Thursday’s trip will be a bit different.
Most trips in the past have received police escorts from the United States Park Police, but that service is no longer being offered.
Incredibly special memories are always made when Honor Flight Columbus takes veterans to Washington D.C.
“It was more than I could ever hope for,” said veteran Curtis Puryear of his August 2021 trip. “It was absolutely over the top beautiful.”
“Today was wonderful,” said veteran Jim Simmons of his October 2019 trip. “I can’t believe how much we saw.”
Thursday marks the group’s first mission of 2022, with 80 veterans on the trip, consisting of Vietnam War veterans, Korean War veterans, and a World War II veteran.
“My favorite part is about getting started tomorrow (Thursday) morning,” said Bob Horner, executive director of Honor Flight Columbus.
The morning at John Glenn International Airport will be the same as other trips, as will the hero’s welcome home. But the time in Washington will be a little different. Honor Flights from around the country recently found out they will no longer be able to have escorts from the U.S. Park Police.
“They really feel like they are being treated in the special way they deserve to be treated, frankly,” Horner said. “But they can’t have that. We don’t have that now.”
Horner said changes have been made to make the trips as smooth as possible without the escorts. The trips now go on Thursdays instead of Saturdays and they aren’t taking as many veterans.
Ohio Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH 12th District) is one of 80 members of Congress who signed a letter this week calling on the Biden administration to provide the police escorts.
In a statement, Balderson said, “Our nation’s military veterans deserve our utmost respect as they visit the monuments honoring their remarkable service and sacrifice. Providing these escorts is a matter of both respect and practicality.”
“We can handle the logistics,” Horner said. “We can’t replace that kind of honor for the veterans.”
Honor Flight Columbus has experience running the trips without the help of the park police: the escorts weren’t available during trips taken early in the COVID-19 pandemic.