Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd takes an InDepth look at this year’s up-coming honor flight.
BB: Welcome to in-depth tonight. In less than two months a plan filled with more than 80 men and women who have served our country will take to the skies On a trip they will carry with them forever. The honor flight of Southern Indiana will head to Washington D.C for its 12 flight. Joining me tonight is Joe Miller the President of Honor Flight of Southern Indiana. Joe, I was one of those flights. Honor flight 5 about four years ago. It is a sight to behold but this is a huge challenge just to put this together. How many people are involved in organizing all this?
JM: We have over 100 volunteers who do various things for the organization. For example, Saturday we’ve got the phone blitz were we call up the veterans and let them know their names have been chosen. We’ve got alot of people for that. All year round we’ve got volunteers working on different things.
BB: We’ve got two flights and we’ll talk about that second flight in a moment. This upcoming flight on May 2nd, whose going to be on board?
JM: Whose going to be on board? We’ve got 84 veterans and each one of those veterans has a guardian to go with them. Right there that would be 180. 168 veterans guardians and then. We have a total of 186 people so another 18 people for bus captains.
BB: And time is marching on. There’s still some potential for some World War II vets to be on that flight.
JM: We’ve got quite a few. Less than a dozen.
JM: In perspective quite a few in the way things are going with World War II veterans. We’ve got them on our list and hopefully, they’ll be able to go with us. Yeah.
BB: Now, the challenges, you were telling me tonight. We were covering this its seems like every day. It has been every day. That’s the impact of coronavirus.
BB: you’re actually getting calls from people who are not necessarily concerned but they’re asking you about what are you going to do?
JM: Asking questions about it. And right now we are communicating with Honor Fight network as well as monitoring things just like watching the news and things like that. And for the time being at least, we don’t have any plans of changing anything. We always have that opportunity if we have to change things. From my perspective everything going just as normal.
BB: Okay, wheels will go up on May 2nd. There’s another challenge this year and that basically involves the second honor flight. There’s this item called the real ID. And its basically something that’s required of anyone who is going to fly in this country. Whether it be abroad or right here in the U.S.A. Starting I believe after October 1st. Several pieces of identification have to be supplied. Talking about many veterans who live in many rural areas. What’s your concern about that and what are you trying to do to get these veterans.. they haven’t been waived.
BB: So that’s the first big stumbling block.
JM: We’re trying to communicate as best as we can. And Dianne Shaw she’s in charge of our website and our Facebook page. She’s been putting things up as she sees them. As far as the real ID goes. So were communicating through that. We’ll be communicating through email via guardians and or veterans. Just to let them know that this is a real thing that’s coming. And at this point and time were not getting any exceptions on flight networks.
BB: Not even World II veterans.
JM: Not even World II veterans.
BB: And that’s from the federal government.
JM: That’s from the federal government.
BB: So they are viewed as a potential threat?
JM: Don’t know if they’re viewed as a potential threat but they’re not making exceptions for them either.
BB: Alright, that’s surprised a lot of people.
JM: It did.
BB: They did not give a waiver to these servicemen and women. The challenge of getting veterans in the area. There is a cost involved in this. That continues to go up it appears.
JM: It does.
BB: How much?
JM: Airplane is our biggest cost it up over $90,000 now. One flight cost us close to $120,000. We get some of that by donations from the guardians. They each make a donation of $500 to help offset that cost. We get a lot of donations from people throughout the 14 county community that we serve. VFW groups, American legion groups, we’ve got alot of individuals who write a check and send it in.
BB: And you also have a donation icon on your website.
JM: We do.
BB: Honor Flight to Southern Indiana.
JM: People can go to our website, it HonorFlightSI.org and there’s a donation tab that they can gladly make a donation.
BB: And we got the mail call and that is soo important. I remember that. It’s probably the most memorable thing I saw in that airplane. Those veterans opening up that mail from perfect strangers. Right there you see. That really touched my heart and it was soo good to see that they are not forgotten. And you have this great, there’s Allen Sanderson right there.
BB: World war II veteran of (not audible) pilot. And that welcome home parade something that those vets never did get.
JM; Right. We’ll get over 3,00 people at the airport just for the home parade.
BB: I was stunned. That was as full as I ever seen Evansville. Something to see. Joe miller best of luck to you, safe travels on this 12th honor flight. Hard to believe.
JM: No doubt.
BB: Alright, keep in touch as progress is being made on that.
JM: We will.
BB: Alright. you’re watching eyewitness news at 9 we’ll be right back.
(This story was originally published on March 6, 2020)