SPEAKER

 
Our speaker today was Rick Hardina talking about Honor Flight Arizona.  Matt Ruppert presented Rick with a check for $2,000 from the club for HFA.
 
The Honor Flight program has now pretty well included every living WW II veteran in AZ who is able or willing to make the trip. There may be as few as 47 who are too ill or unwilling to make the trip for various reasons.  Honor Flight Arizona started in 2008.  Since then, they have sent over 1,000 AZ WWII vets on 56 flights to the DC area.  In the fall, they will begin switching over to Korean War vets. The flight costs $900 for family members and volunteers who accompany the vets on the flight.  They pay this out of pocket.  The flight crew from Southwest airlines are all volunteers.  There is a doctor aboard each flight in case health issues arise. Each vet has a family guardian who accompanies him/her on the trip 
 
Rick showed a video that followed a typical flight from beginning to end. It starts with breakfast at Sky Harbor followed by a procession to the gate which always leads to applause from people in the airport and a special send off group of volunteers.  The plane flies to Baltimore where it is greeted by a firetruck water salute over the plane.  Their visit in D.C. lasts 3 days.  They visit the WW II memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Marines Memorial, and the Seabees Memorial.  They also visit the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the US Naval Academy, Arlington National Cemetery, and Ft. McHenry.  Senator Jeff Flake visited the vets while they were at the WW II memorial.  One of the touching moments was the interaction between the vets and kids and adults at the memorials.  Rick said the vets remember the kids the most from their visit.  On the flight home, they have a "mail call" in which each vet gets notes of appreciation from family members, friends and volunteers.  There is a reception committee waiting for them when they deplane at Sky Harbor who cheer their arrival back.  Many of the vets saluted as they got off the plane.  "America the Beautiful" was being played in the background.  Each vet later gets a video of their experience to share with others.
Rick's presentation on Honor Flight Arizona was one of the most moving we have ever heard.  President Matt, an ex-Marine, took awhile to get his composure back as was true for some other club members.  Rick said if anyone wants to volunteer for the send off group or the welcome back group, just contact him.