Several veterans huddled inside the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois Wednesday, eager to hear the details of the next Honor Flight to Washington D.C., coming on Oct. 17.
Robert Swafford of West Frankfort said he has never seen his memorial. He spent 16 months with the Army in Korea, in 1953-54.
Swafford learned about the Honors Flight program through his daughter, Janet Wood, who accompanied him to the announcement. She sat nearby and filled out his application.
Honor Flight is a national program with local chapters, that raises money to take aging veterans to Washington D.C. to see their own memorials and other sights, giving them a jam-packed day to remember. The Southern Illinois chapter held its first flight on April 25, and now has enough money to host another one.
Bryan Questelle, chairman of the board of Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois, told the assembly Wednesday that they will accept applications through Sept. 1.
"Flight Number 2 is scheduled to take 55 veterans to visit their memorials and honor them for their service and sacrifice," he said. "We'd like to take as many Korean and World War II veterans as possible."
Questelle, an Air Force veteran (1986-1990) began pursuing a southern Illinois Honor Flight group when he was working with a retirement community in Anna. He looked into what Honor Flights were available for southern Illinois vets but could find nothing closer than Springfield and southern Indiana.
He partnered with Veterans Airport Director Doug Kimmel and together they found sponsors and built interest among local veterans in taking the trip.
Because the inaugural flight was so successful -- taking 55 veterans to see the various war memorials -- Questelle decided to put together a second flight.
"We owe every veteran a debt of gratitude for their service, especially those who served during conflict," he said.
Vernon Vaughn, a former Marine who served in Korea in 1952-53, is one of those vets. He was present Wednesday, saying he appreciates the chance to go to Washington, D.C. If he is lucky enough to be selected for the October flight he'll take his son, Larry, with him, as a guardian.
Questelle said he also hopes people volunteer to be guardians for other vets, and sign up to help in other ways, too. Each veteran is assigned a guardian for the day, who ensure the veteran has a safe and memorable trip.
Guardians can be between 18 and 70, and attend training prior to the flight.
If interested in participating as a veteran, guardian or volunteer, visit www.veteranshonorflight.org or call (618) 993-3353 ext. 4.