Freedom Honor Flight returns to the skies on Saturday, May 7

Organizers are preparing for Freedom Honor Flight’s 26th trip to honor veterans by flying them to Washington D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor. The single-day itinerary includes a welcome in Washington, D.C., and visits typically include the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and other sites via luxury motorcoaches.

Eager to fly are the 97 veterans from the Vietnam Era, nine Korean Era veterans and one World War II veteran slated for the trip. The veterans fly for free, accompanied by volunteer guardians who pay their own way to assist the veterans on this “trip of a lifetime.”

As with every Freedom Honor Flight, accompanying the veterans are a physician and four paramedics from Gundersen Health System and a physician from Mayo Clinic Health System, all out of the La Crosse area. Both health systems have been longtime supporters of Freedom Honor Flight, providing the paid services of the medical professionals at no charge to the organization, plus paying for their flights. Many honor flight veterans are elderly and depend on this medical care to have a safe and comfortable experience.

The public is welcome at the morning sendoff and the evening welcome home ceremonies. Ample parking is available with shuttle service, provided for this flight by UPS employee volunteers. All ground activities are held at Colgan Air, Hangar 4, La Crosse Airport.

In the morning, hangar doors open at 5 a.m. A brief ceremony precedes the American Airlines charter flight, set to depart at 6:55 a.m. The popular welcome home ceremony features fireworks by the La Crosse Skyrockers and the Westby High School Marching Band, a special treat considering this flight has some veterans from Westby. Hangar doors open at 7 p.m. The flight is expected to return between 9 and 10 p.m.

Freedom Honor Flight is the first Wisconsin affiliate of the national network of Honor Flight organizations. The hub, based in La Crosse, serves 30 counties in western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota and northern Iowa. The group’s mission is to organize and fly groups of veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the war memorials that stand in their honor. The group receives no government funding and depends on donations, which are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.