Q&A: Veterans Honor Flights
Q: What are Veterans Honor Flights?
A: Across the United States, a network of local organizations raises money to provide expense-free trips to the nation’s capital for veterans to spend a day in remembrance and celebration of their military service to America. Thanks to generous donors and an army of local volunteers, tens of thousands of veterans who served during the eras spanning World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars have made the once-in-a-lifetime trip since 2005. Veterans with a terminal illness from any period of service are given priority in the application process. The full-day excursion allows veterans to share their stories with one another and bear witness to the memorials and monuments in Washington, D.C. built in honor of their service and sacrifice for America. Veterans typically receive an early morning bon voyage at their local airport followed by a hero’s homecoming at the end of a long and meaningful day. Their loved ones and members of the local community come to express their appreciation and gratitude for the patriotism and service of their local hometown heroes who served in uniform to defend our freedoms at home and abroad. The Honor Flight Network has expanded to 128 hubs located across the country. For the last two decades, a dedicated and generous corps of donors, guardians and volunteers organize, plan and pay for the Honor Flights to make the magic happen. During the month of May, the Honor Flight Network will celebrate an extraordinary milestone of bringing a quarter-million veterans on these missions of tribute in heartwarming salute to their service. It is an extraordinary honor for me and members of my staff to meet up with veterans from Iowa who join the Honor Flights to our nation’s capital. In April, my staff welcomed nearly 90 veterans on the first flight of the year from the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight in Cedar Rapids while I was holding county meetings in Iowa. We look forward to welcoming many more veterans to Washington, D.C. in the coming year and beyond.
Q: What are some ways you keep in touch with veterans in Iowa?
A: Several years ago, I expanded my office’s outreach to keep in touch with Iowa’s veteran community by creating a Veterans Fellow position on my staff. I wanted to bring on board a military veteran who works in Iowa and has boots on the ground as a community outreach officer for veterans and their families. My Veterans Fellow helps solve problems and cut red tape veterans may experience to obtain health care, housing or employment in their local communities. Having an ambassador solely focused on connecting with Iowa veterans and their families and to liaison with veterans service organizations, health care providers and employers helps make sure we’re doing everything we can to solve problems, address concerns and celebrate the successes of our hometown heroes. Harrison Swift currently serves as Veterans Fellow in my Des Moines office. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he served in Afghanistan during his military service. On May 4, my Veterans Fellow will hold a listening post in Missouri Valley from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Rand Center, 100 S. 4th St. Local veterans and their families are encouraged to attend to share their experiences and concerns.
A few years ago, my office started organizing interviews around the state to help preserve the stories of Iowa veterans for the Veterans History Project administered by the Library of Congress. Held the Friday before Veterans Day, we record stories from local veterans so their service and sacrifice aren’t lost to history. Since 2018, we have interviewed more than 50 veterans around the state, including the Gold Star Museum in Johnston, the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, the Veterans Post in Waverly, and the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City. In November, we’ve scheduled our fifth annual event to record interviews for the Veterans History Project to take place at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo. Veterans interested in participating may send an email to email@example.com.