All over the country, the Honor Flight program is bringing veterans of World War II to Washington, D.C., to view the monument to their service and tour the capital. BGSU has been a leader in the northwest Ohio Honor Flight program, which has included about 430 veterans in 15 trips to Washington.
Many University faculty and staff have participated. Travis Chapin, construction management, has made three trips and helps recruit drivers for the program. Volunteers bring area veterans to the Toledo airport to see them off and then return for the welcome-back ceremony and drive them back home.
“It’s more than just driving them, though,” Chapin said. “It’s about building a relationship. We try to meet them the week before the flight to talk over their experience and get to know them a bit.”
Though the day runs from about 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., “it’s completely energizing for the veterans. When they step off the plane back home they’re 20 years old again,” Chapin said.
He is recruiting drivers for the final flight of 2010 on Oct. 6. Those interested in participating may volunteer by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up online at http://www.able506.com/hfnwo/hfnwo09.html.
“It was a real honor to be of service to one of these heroes from what Tom Brokaw has called ‘the greatest generation,’” said Pete Fairbairn, Marketing and Communications, who volunteered to drive a 91-year-old veteran in July. “Their service and sacrifice are well worth the small role we can play to give them the recognition they deserve.”
A flight last week included Elsie Perch, 90, who served for more than two years in North Africa as a member of the Army Nurse Corps. She was the speaker for Buckeye Boys State on campus earlier this summer.
The community has thrown its support behind the Honor Flight. Substantial donations last week came from the Bowling Green Noon Kiwanis Club, Owens-Illinois, Kingston care centers (which also provide the participants’ breakfasts) and a local family.
BGSU alumnus Jim Tichy, retired NBC 24 sports director, has been an advocate for the program and a frequent speaker on its behalf.
Chapin is also helping Dr. Brett Holden, theatre and film, connect students in one of his classes with veterans for interviews about their experiences both in the military and in readjusting to civilian life.