Yesterday evening we had the great honor and pleasure to travel to Chicago’s Midway Airport to welcome back to Chicago, my wife’s Uncle Dick. Uncle Dick was the recipient of a seat on the Honor Flight Chicago’s most recent trip to Washington DC. It was a most amazing experience to be among the more than 3,000 well wishers assembled to honor our “Greatest Generation”!
According to Uncle Dick, he and his lovely bride of more years than I can shake a stick at – awoke at o-dark-hundred so the Uncle Dick could muster at Midway Airport. My Uncle and his fellow travelers were transported to the waiting chartered jet and whisked off to our nation’s capital. Once on the ground in Washington DC they were toured “all over the place” including the new World War II Memorial on the Mall. Since all of the WWII vets on the flight are getting up in years, there were plenty of wheelchairs and young volunteers to escort the vets to see the sights. After a full day of sight seeing, the intrepid travelers were loaded on the charter flight for the return trip to their departure point, Midway Airport.
Upon arrival at Chicago Midway Airport, the plane’s passengers were welcomed with a water canon salute from the Chicago Fire Department. I am told, by those who know, that the water canon salute is reserved for only the most important, highest ranking visitors. Our WWII vets sure qualify in that regard! The more than seven hundred volunteers who make Honor Flight Chicago work had one more surprise in store. When the flight disembarked, our Vets were greeted by members of our active-duty armed forces, backed up by a contingent from both the Chicago Fire Department and Chicago Police Department. The tired Vets were serenaded by Bag Pipers and escorted by sailors from Great Lakes Naval Station to the main arrival concourse to be greeted by an assembled throng of well wishers. My wife’s Uncle is not given to tears – a trait that is common to that age group of heroes – but his eyes were a tad wet from the reception from family and strangers.
None of the WWII Veterans pay anything for the days activities. All costs are paid for by Honor Flight Chicago. To date, Honor Flight Chicago has flown over 3,000 veterans to Washington, D.C. and there are more that 1,000 on a waiting list. On each trip to Washington, D.C. Honor Flight Chicago takes between 95 and 100 veterans. The cost of each trip is $50,000.00 or $500.00 per veteran. Sponsorships are available and encouraged.
The mission of Honor Flight Chicago, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, is to raise funds to provide more WWII Veterans the chance to visit Washington DC and the WWII Memorial. On June 3, 2012, Honor Flight Chicago will host “Made in America” Benefit Concert to be held at the Paramount Theatre, located at 23 East Galena Blvd., Aurora, IL. All of the proceeds will benefit Honor Flight Chicago. The headliner will be Ricky Lee. The opening act will be Chicagoland’s patriotic sweethearts, the Legacy Girls. There’ll be two shows at 2:00 & 6:00 pm. General admission tickets are $40 and admission for WWII Vets is only $20. Advance ticket sales are available on the following websites: www.honorflightchicago.org, www.paramounttheater.com or www.rickyleemusic.com. The Paramount box office can be reached at 630-896-6666.