On July 24, 2015, American, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Old Glory Honor Flight partnered for Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight III. More than 100 Vietnam veterans departed from the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and arrived in Washington, D.C., for an unforgettable day of healing. The flight coincided with EAA’s AirVenture, a weeklong event billed as the world’s greatest aviation celebration.
Honor Flights are held in the mindset that it is never too late to say thank you. Until recently, flights were limited to ex-military from WWII and Korea. This was the first Honor Flight for Vietnam veterans.
“Three years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the armistice, the EAA asked if we would like to do a Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight,” said Chris Berkers, Board of Directors, Old Glory Honor Flight Vietnam, “We said, ‘Yes.’”
Early that morning, the Vietnam vets boarded an American flight to the nations capitol. “As soon as those guys step off the plane in Washington, D.C.,” continued Berker, “there’s a crowd of people thanking them, and all day, people are thanking them for their services.” For many, this was the first time they heard those words.
The vets soon arrived at the Vietnam Memorial. Strong, proud men, both on foot and in wheelchairs, gently touched the names of comrades long gone. Trying to hold back the tears, Lee Aanonsen, Vietnam veteran, remarked, “It’s hard — hard to see the names.”
The Wall, clearly the focal point of their visit, elicited a flood of emotions for everyone. Kimberly Mitchell, co-founder of Dixon Center, noted, “Seeing it [the Wall] with other veterans and seeing it with their fellow soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen makes it something special.”
During their whirlwind tour, the veterans visited sites, memorials and monuments built in their honor. Then it was back to airport for their American flight home.
Upon returning to Wisconsin, they received a long overdue hero’s welcome. Hugs, kisses and thank yous from family and the thousands attending EAA’s AirVenture surrounded the veterans. Then Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, a band, sponsored by of American, that plays to benefit military personnel, rocked the day down and sent our heroes home with a smile.