After more than two years, Lake County Honor Flight will resume trips for veterans
After being grounded for more than two years, Lake County Honor Flight will resume no-cost trips for veterans to visit memorials honoring their service in Washington, D.C.
On April 30, 24 veterans and their guardians will board "A Tribute to Gordy" in honor of late World War II veteran Gordon Smith of Mundelein. It will be the first Lake County Honor Flight to depart since October 2019.
The last scheduled flight was in April 2020, but like all others in the 128-hub Honor Flight network, it was postponed by the national organization because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"During the pandemic we continued to plan and prepare, and now the time has come to resume our mission," said John Passanante, Lake County Honor Flight president.
All hubs operate under the national umbrella but are allowed to pick the flight times, dates and frequencies. Lake County Honor Flight typically flies in April, August and October, said Paula Carballido, executive director.
National restrictions were lifted last summer, and local organizations were allowed to fly at their own discretion. But with only one flight left on the 2021 calendar, Lake County Honor Flight held off.
Trips normally encompass three days. Rather than navigating quarantines and an array of logistics, and considering the uncertainty about an overnight stay, it made sense to wait until this year, Carballido said.
"We wanted everybody to have a good time and not worry and focus on somebody getting sick," she added.
For the upcoming flight, the organization contacted veterans who had been scheduled for the April 2020 trip.
But only about half the original passengers were able or willing to fly. One or two veterans died, and others couldn't make it because of health issues, Carballido said.
However, finding additional passengers for the April 30 flight was not an issue, as there are 190 to 200 veterans on the waiting list, she added. The first trip of 2022 will be for two days and one night.
A typical three-day round trip costs about $78,000, Carballido said, and the local organization didn't host events or fundraisers during the hiatus. But donations from other groups and interests will cover the cost of the April trip.
Veterans from all eras are eligible for flights, regardless of their combat status. Priority is given to the oldest veterans and those in hospice care. The expedition includes a direct flight to Washington, D.C., overnight accommodations, meals and transportation.
Applications for veterans, guardians and volunteers can be submitted online at www.lakecountyhonorflight.org.