Started in 2005 shortly after completion of the World War II Memorial, Honor Flight is a national network of volunteer groups that fly veterans to the nation’s capital. Priority is given to World War II veterans, followed by Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.
Central Missouri Honor Flight was started in 2008, and the group’s first flight was in May 2009. Since then, more than 2,000 local veterans have made the trip to Washington D.C.
“It needed to be done,” founder Mary Paulsell said of starting Central Missouri Honor Flight. “My brother and I jumped in as co-founders because our dad was a World War II veteran — Silver Star in the Battle of the Bulge — but he did not live long enough to see it built.”
Each Honor Flight veteran is accompanied by a volunteer “guardian” who is a medical professional or younger veteran. The tours include the war memorials and the Iwo Jima, Air Force and Women in Military Service memorials as well as a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard.
Honor Flight also provides the community with an opportunity to show its appreciation. Each veteran receives a packet of cards and letters from local schoolchildren. A large group of motorcycle riders accompanies each bus as an honor guard for the last leg of its return trip from the airport in St. Louis and a large crowd of family, friends and community members awaiting them at their return point.
Honor Flight is funded entirely by private contributions from individual donors and groups.
For more information about Central Missouri Honor Flight or to volunteer or donate, visit centralmissourihonorflight.com.