Indy Honor Flight held its maiden flight this week and took nearly 80 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.
The Honor Flight Network’s mission is to take WW II veterans to see their memorial in the nation’s capital. The second part of the mission is to give the veterans a proper welcome home.
The first Indy Flight took place Sept. 10. Each veteran was paired with a “guardian” for the day to help them during the trip. Many of the guardians were volunteers, but others were friends and family who were able to make the trip.
Plainfield’s Kaye York was able to serve as the companion for her father, Tom Costin, who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard.
“The trip was absolutely amazing,” York said. “We did every monument you can think of. We had like 50 people in wheelchairs, so we all just pitched in and helped each other.”
Costin said seeing the WW II Memorial was a truly moving experience.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” he said. “It was just outstanding that we were able to go see it.”
He said the trip was very well organized and he felt they were honored throughout the day.
“And I can tell you there was never a dull moment,” Costin said. “We had a great time. And it was so great that I was able to do this with my daughter.”
Kermit Davis served in the U.S. Marines during WW II and then worked many years as a teacher at Plainfield High School.
“We had such a big day,” Davis said. “I can’t believe all these people who are here to welcome us home. And mail call was so nice.”
After the day’s events, the veterans participated in “mail call” when they were getting ready for the flight home. Friends, family, and strangers wrote letters to thank each of the veterans.
“And I hear this is going to be on television tomorrow,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Davis’ wife, Jean Davis, along with other family members, including the family dog, were waiting for his return.
Indianapolis resident Clare Libbing volunteered to be a guardian for the day and was paired up with Davis.
“He was a huge problem,” she said. “He walked faster than me, he carried more than me, and he was really great to get to know.”
She said the two of them ended up teasing each other all day and had a “blast.”
“She even lost my hat once,” Davis said. “She’s really a lot of trouble.”
Hendricks County resident Maria Larrison served as a volunteer guardian for Plainfield resident Lou Collier.
“We’re going to be friends,” she said. “I will keep in touch. We enjoyed everything.”
She said she will continue to volunteer as a guardian. Larrison got involved because the Indy Honor Flight director, Grant Thompson, volunteers at Sheltering Wings, the domestic violence shelter where she serves as CEO.
“Grant volunteers at the shelter and one day we got to talking about veterans,” she said. “And he got to talking about the Honor Flight program.”
In 2009, Thompson arranged a flight for his wife’s great uncle, a WW II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, to see the new memorial. He said it was a life changing experience. He and his wife, Tammy, decided they wanted to share the experience with as many local veterans as they could.
The Honor Flight Network was founded by a doctor from Ohio. The first flight consisted of six small planes carrying 12 veterans to Washington, D.C. By the end of 2011, there were 114 hubs of the Honor Flight Network across the country and it has flown more than 85,000 veterans to see the monument at no charge to them.