St. Charles Parish’s World War II veterans are being recruited to take a trip they’ll never forget. Louisiana Honor Air wants to fly veterans to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Monument and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Along the way, the veterans will be honored throughout the journey and will get to meet Former Sen. Bob Dole.
“It’s an amazing emotional journey,” Henry Mouton, one of the organization’s founders, said. “Most of these veterans are right around 80-years-old, and so for them, it feels like the greatest honor.”
There’s no charge for the trip, and the veterans aren’t even allowed to make donations to continue the flights for other WWII veterans.
“We do not allow the vets to donate money to Honor Air,” Mouton said. “We ask people from all other walks of life to donate money to say ‘thank you’ to these brave men and women who gave us our freedom.
“I plan to speak before the St. Charles Parish Council to invite as many veterans as I can to take the journey with us. It’s something I believe that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
The veterans who sign up to take the flight will be escorted to the airport in Baton Rouge.
“Once they arrive in Baton Rouge, they will be greeted by 10 Marines in full dress uniform and 12 members of the Louisiana National Guard standing at attention, which is followed by a salute,” Mouton said. “Once they arrive at the D.C. airport, there are two large fire trucks spraying water over the plane to welcome the vets to the nation’s capital.”
Mouton has taken this flight several times with the veterans and says that the experience leaves a lasting impression.
“If you can imagine this, once inside the terminal, there are about 150 Girl Scouts, USO personnel, U.S. Air employees and other well wishers clapping, cheering and waving American flags to welcome them,” he said. “You can see 10 years of their life come back to them because they are so excited by this welcome to D.C.”
After the welcome at the airport, the veterans then get on patriotic-style buses.
“The three buses are the red, the white and the blue,” Mouton said. “The buses then head to the World War II Monument where the veterans are greeted by Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole. They tour the monument, get back on the bus, and the next stop is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
Mouton says this is an extremely emotional part of the trip.
“At the tomb, they watch the changing of the guard, and then lay a wreath at the tomb,” he said. “It is a very emotional time as there is a guard playing ‘Taps.’”
Not only does the program provide one guardian for every three veterans that take the flight, but medical personnel are on board to oversee health concerns.
“I was honored to serve as a guardian on the May 3 flight,” Mouton said. “On the flights there are several paramedics, nurses and doctors that donate their time to take care of any vet that might get sick on the trip.”
There have been nine Honor Air flights out of Lafayette – five in the fall of 2007 and four in the spring of 2008. Honor Air is planning on flying four trips out of Baton Rouge in October and one in November.
The cost of each flight is about $70,000.
Mouton says U.S. Airway is very committed to Honor Air and kept the cost of their flights low even though fuel prices have risen.
“This is the greatest program that I have ever been involved with as we are honoring the greatest generation,” Mouton said.
To learn more about Honor Air, visit www.louisianahonorair.com. To make donations write Louisiana Honor Air, P.O. Box 53097, Lafayette, LA 70505-3097.