COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – More than airplanes took off from John Glenn International Airport Saturday.
Close to 1,600 runners and walkers took part in the annual Runway 5K to raise money for Honor Flight Columbus.
“They’re the reason we can do stuff like this,” said Charlie Neal, 14.
Charlie’s grandfather served in combat during the Vietnam War. The teen ran the event with his father as a show of support for all veterans.
“It’s great to be able to honor them and then have the freedoms we have,” explained Charlie’s father, Casey Neal. “A lot of people take that for granted. We want to appreciate it and just enjoy it.”
Brian Neal said it was encouraging to see the support, adding, “Mainly the ones that didn’t make it back — they’re the heroes. But you’ve got to realize (after) the Vietnam War, we weren’t welcomed back. So it means a lot now.”
Saturday’s run and walk raised more than $70,000, which can cover an entire flight of veterans to Washington, D.C.
“This is important for both the veterans and the community to thank them for their service, to share with them their appreciation for the sacrifices they made for this great nation,” said Honor Flight Columbus Executive Director Peter MacKenzie.
Korean War veteran Antenore “Hank” Vinco participated in an Honor Flight trip in 2017.
“It was fantastic, I loved it. It was great,” he said.
Vinco was amazed by the reception the veterans received both in Washington and back home and now encourages others to take advantage of the opportunity.
“At first I thought three years of my life wasted,” Vinco said of his time in Korea. “But now I realize what I went through and I appreciate it more — being in the service to help the country.”
Since 2007, Honor Flight Columbus has sent more than 6,500 veterans to the nation’s capital.
In October, the non-profit will send its 100th flight.
You can learn more about Honor Flight, submit a veteran’s application for the trip or donate to the cause by clicking here.