Alaska Airlines is teaming up with the Honor Flight Network to offer military veterans in Hawaii free flights to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials honoring their service.
Flights will begin the week of Veterans Day in November, with additional flights being planned for 2023.
Veterans living in Hawaii and other locations in the Pacific can have a difficult time traveling due to the distance and cost of flights. That’s where the Honor Flight Network steps in.
The service, which launched in 2005, has flown more than 250,000 veterans around the country free of charge. It has more than 130 hubs around the country, but officials at Honor Flight are targeting Hawaii for expansion.
“Here we are, 17 years later, having flown over 250,000 veterans — that’s amazing,” said Matthew Shuman, president of Honor Flight’s board of directors, at a ceremony covered by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “But we have a hole in our system that’s here for the islands of Hawaii. Just because veterans live here and are proud to call Hawaii home doesn’t mean that we should leave them out.”
The distance issues should not be a barrier to Hawaiian veterans benefitting from Honor Flight’s services, he said.
“When we talk about serving every single veteran, making sure that not one veteran is left behind, it’s more than just words,” said Shuman. “We want every single veteran from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, American Samoa, or any other island who served the United States in uniform.”
The Honor Flight program allows veterans to visit Washington to view the Korean War Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and more.
It’s an important step in recovering from past experiences.
“I’ve long realized I wasn’t the only veteran who needs to remember to heal,” Vietnam War veteran Will Brown told Hawaii News Now. “This proposed trip provides a safe, healthy means to begin to heal the emotional wounds buried for decades.”
The Honor Flight Network is looking for veterans interested in taking advantage of the flights, with priority given to those who served in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam.
The program has been embraced by Alaska Airlines, with company officials helping to coordinate the flights and provide whatever support it can before and after the trips.
Alaska is looking for volunteers to help with the program.
“Alaska Airlines will be just one of many businesses that it will take to get these veterans to D.C.,” said Tim Thompson, Alaska’s director of public engagement. “We’re going to need the help of volunteers, guardians, other businesses, and individuals to create a vibrant hub here in Hawaii.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the Hawaii program, or with Honor Flight at one of the domestic hubs, can get more information at the Honor Flight website.
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