On September 28, 2013, nearly 600 World War II veterans, their guardians, active duty military personnel, medical personnel, and other guests from New England and New York will travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial. It is the largest, single Honor Flight tour of its kind in the history of the Honor Flight program. The daylong trip comes at no cost to the veterans or their families and enables elderly WWII veterans to visit their memorial, which was dedicated in 2004, for the first time.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will provide complimentary public transportation for veterans from all military service branches to T.F. Green Airport for their Honor Flight. Known as “Operation: Gratitude 2013,” three Southwest Airlines charters will leave T.F. Green (Providence, R.I.), MacArthur (Islip, N.Y.) and Logan (Boston) airports, respectively, early on the morning of Saturday, September 28, 2013, arriving at BWI Airport in Baltimore. From there, the honorees will travel by bus to the Memorial and, if time, to other sites as well before enjoying a special dinner in their honor at the Airport Hilton in Baltimore.
Established in 2004, the Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans, transporting them to Washington D.C. at no cost to them to visit and reflect at their memorials. The program was conceived in Springfield, OH by Earl Morse, a physician assistant, private pilot and retired Air Force Captain who wanted to honor the veterans he had cared for. At that time, the World War II Memorial had just been completed in D.C., yet many veterans were in their 80s and lacked the physical, mental and financial resources to visit it on their own. The first Honor Flight tour was made in 2005. Thereafter, a network of participating programs called “hubs” formed across America in order to pool resources, experiences and alliances to get veterans to their memorial safely. Presently there are 127 hubs in 41 states. The three hubs participating in “Operation: Gratitude 2013” are Honor Flight New England, Honor Flight Rhode Island (supported by the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs) and Honor Flight Long Island.