Honor Flight needs vets

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 28, 2010

Only a dozen local veterans have applied to participate in this year’s honor flight, Covington Regional Honor Flight board president Tonitta Sauls said Wednesday.

“And that’s no where what we need to make this trip a reality, so to say applicants are greatly needed is an understatement,” Sauls said. “The great thing about this trip is that we are planning to charter a flight from the South Alabama Regional Airport and fly straight from Andalusia to Washington, which will give us extra time to visit the memorials.”

And that extra time will be needed as both World War II veterans who did not attend last year’s trip and veterans of the Korean War are eligible to go, Sauls said.

“Last year, we only visited the WWII memorial, so with this next trip we plan to make a stop at both the WWII memorial and the Korean War memorial,” she said. “So that extra time will be utilized, no doubt.”

In the county’s first honor flight in May 2009 gave more than 40 World War II veterans took an early morning flight to the nation’s capital, visited the memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, and then returned home later that same day.

“It was a hectic, but enjoyable trip,” she said.

In addition to participants, funds are also needed to make the trip a reality, she said.

“We need between $45,000 to $50,000 because of the expense of chartering a plane,” she said. “We have a small amount of funds left over from the first trip, but it’s nowhere what we need. It’s enough to ‘get us off the ground’ but it’s not enough to get us there and back.”

Both public and private contributions make it possible for veterans to take honor flights free of charge. Guardians, media and other staff pay their own way for the flights.

This year’s honor flight is tentatively scheduled for the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May.

Sauls said negotiations are underway with the charter company but “what’s really holding us up is that we don’t know what size of plane we’ll need because we don’t have a total number of veterans.”

She said the CHRF hopes to have between 75-100 people, counting veterans, for this year’s flight.

Those who are veterans of either World War II or the Vietnam War, or know a veteran of either war who is interested in applying for an honor flight seat, may pick up an application at the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce, the Opp and Covington County Chamber of Commerce or the Veterans Administration office at the Covington County administration building or by calling Sauls at 334-493-3070.