A local chapter of the national Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that has so far treated more than 81,000 Vietnam, Korean and World War II veterans to complimentary flights to Washington for VIP tours of the national war memorials, is organizing in the Northeast Tennessee region and working on plans for an inaugural trip in October.
Edie Lowry, president and CEO of Honor Flight Northeast Tennessee, said fundraising and volunteer recruitment for the new chapter began in January and has so far been met with a heartening show of support. A volunteer board of directors has been formed and the new chapter expects to receive its nonprofit status for tax-deductible contributions within a few weeks.
Because of the $61,000 cost of a chartered one-day, round trip flight to Washington, plans for the chapter’s first excursion in early October tentatively call for a three-day trip for up to 20 veterans and their Honor Flight escorts to be made by coach bus.
Counting the cost of meals and other incidental needs for the veterans, Lowry said $70,000 will be needed for a one-day trip by air, and if the chapter’s fundraising efforts rise to that level, the flight is still a possibility for October. “If we have raised $70,000, I will schedule that flight,” she said.
As is, the chapter has so far received $300 sponsorships for each of six World War II veterans to make the three-day trip via bus. The sponsorship covers the cost of the entire trip, including travel, meals and hotel accommodations, at no cost to a veteran. While the trips are open to veterans of any of the three wars, priority is given to World War II veterans. Disabled veterans also receive priority scheduling while veterans with terminal illnesses are placed at the top the list.
Lowry and Mark Watson, a Marine Corps veteran, local Marine Corps League member and the chapter’s spokesman, as well as other chapter volunteers have so far shared information about the Honor Flight program with veterans’ groups and their supporters in several area counties and are continuing that work almost daily. U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, is among those who have already extended support for the local chapter and has also volunteered to meet each of the local veteran tour groups and serve as their representative during their time in the capital.
Several small but successful fundraisers for the chapter have been conducted and several more are scheduled in the coming months, including a series of Saturday morning benefit breakfasts to be held at Fatz restaurant in Elizabethton beginning in May.
On Monday, Honor Flight East Tennessee members will host a meet-and-greet reception for anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about how to support the chapter. The reception will be held from 3-5 p.m. at Tetrick Funeral Services on Peoples Street.
The benefit breakfasts at Fatz are scheduled for May 5, May 19, May 26 and June 2. Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the door.
More information about the national Honor Flight program is available online at HonorFlight.org.
More information about the local chapter and applications for area veterans who would like to make the trip may be obtained by emailing Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 330-6189.