Honor Flights gives Veterans a chance to heal
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- In 2005, an organization called Honor Flights, was developed to take World War II Veterans to see the World War II memorials in Washington D.C.
In 2018, after meeting a founder, a man named Martin Leamy said, “A lot of these veterans did not receive the welcome they deserved when they returned home from their various deployments.” He said this is why he created a hub for Honor Flights for Veterans in Southwest and Central Virginia.
Martin Leamy, a Veteran himself, wanted to give these men and women the thanks they may not have received so long ago.
“And it also gives them the opportunity to get some closure, and some healing as well,” said Leamy.
Located only two hours from Washington D.C., the Southwest and Central Virginia Honors Flight hub, drives 20 Veterans twice a year to see their memorials.
The trips last 3 days, visiting a number of memorials. During their time in D.C., Veterans typically have an “it moment.”
“There was a veteran who was very reluctant to go and his guardian was like ‘Oh you’re going to have a great time. This trip is for you.’ And then when they got to the Vietnam Wall, the guardian said, ‘Well, I’m not going down there because one of my buddies is on the wall.’ And basically, the Vet said ‘Hey, I’ve been listening to you all and it’s your turn to listen to me.’ So, he got him down there. That was really cool,” Leamy shared.
He shares another touching story.
“A 101-year-old Naval Construction Battalion guy, he was in a wheelchair, and we stopped at the CB Memorial outside Arlington gates. We stopped for him and he got up out of the wheelchair and walked to it,” he added.
Leamy says it’s moments like this that he looks forward to each trip.
“I have seen lifelong friendships develop between Veterans and guardians, between the Veterans. How I like to describe it is we just get on a bus with a bunch of strangers on Friday, and we get off the bus as somewhat a dysfunctional family on Sunday but a family nonetheless,” he said with pride.
As the World War II Veterans pass on, Honors Flights are serving more of the Vietnam veterans.
Leamy reminds us of the importance of Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is a solemn day to remember, grieve and provide gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our nation,” he said.
To sign up for an Honors Flight visit https://cswvirginiahonorflight.org/