(The Center Square) – The Honor Flight Network is set to resume flights beginning next month, but in accordance with CDC guidelines and other COVID protocols. Not all hubs are ready to fly their aging veterans to the nation's capital.
Honor Flights are privately funded chartered flights for veterans of foreign wars of advanced age to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.
The national Honor Flight Network put out guidelines for flights to continue starting next month after canceling all flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Honor Flight is pleased to announce that operations will resume on August 16, 2021,” the group said on its website. “Additionally, in accordance with current CDC guidelines, all participants will be required to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide negative results of a PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to departure.”
Flights from some Illinois hubs have been canceled for the rest of the year.
Land of Lincoln Honor Flight organizer Steve Wheeler told WMAY the restrictions are too burdensome.
“We can’t put the flight out there that we want to give these veterans if we have to have all these restrictions, masks, social distancing, we won’t be able to eat on the buses like we normally do,” Wheeler said.
The layers of restrictions will take away from the experience they hope to provide the 700 veterans on their waiting list from the Springfield area.
“We’re going to wait and we’re going to do it right, and wait until next year and hopefully these restrictions can be lifted and we can put the flight up there that we want,” Wheeler said.
Flights from other Illinois groups aren't listed on the national organization's flight schedule. Chicago Honor Flight Co-Director Doug Meffley said their flights are on, including the first all-female veteran flight scheduled for October.
Others with empty scheduled flight slots are Honor Flight South Florida and Honor Flight of Central Oregon, among others.
But Honor Flight Columbus, Ohio, Executive Director Peter MacKenzie said after no flights the 18 months, they don’t have a choice but to aggressively continue flights for the 1,500 on the waiting list.
“Sixty guys have passed waiting to go and that’s unacceptable,” MacKenzie said.
There are fewer and fewer veterans from World War II alive while the flights are also available for veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“There’s a lot of different moving parts here. There’s the safety of the vets, there’s the public perception, there’s just lots of moving parts,” MacKenzie said. “We think we can do it, well we’re going to do it. I don’t feel like we have a choice.”
Flight schedules from across the country can be found at HonorFlight.org.