TOLEDO — There’s a waiting list of 600-plus veterans and enough money for three more flights remaining for a program intended bring World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II Memorial.
From the perspective of the organizers of Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, they had no choice but to limit the program Tuesday. The group announced it focus on World War II veterans, no longer accepting applications from veterans from Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts.
“Out of the 100-plus Honor Flight hubs, some have shut down once they got through their World War II veterans or once they ran out of funding,” said Dave Chilson, the group’s media relations specialist and a retired Navy captain whose father served in the Navy in World War II. “We just felt we wanted to let the people of northwest Ohio know where we stand.”
Each flight costs an estimated $72,000, which is enough to bring 70 to 80 veterans and a corresponding number of “guardians” to help them during an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. The 6-year-old group has funds for an October flight and two next year.
A decrease in private donations made it re-evaluate bringing Korea and Vietnam veterans along, though.
“We’ve been funded by companies, service organizations, schools, churches and individuals,” Chilson said. “The funding we have had the last several years is just not at the same level as we had for several years.”
The organization was established in 2004 after the completion of the National World War II Memorial, near the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. It honors the 16 million people who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, including more than 400,000 casualties. It includes a freedom wall with a field of 4,000 gold stars to represent those who died.
The group still plans to honor the 600-plus applications received through June, as well as gathering new applications from those who served in World War II.
“World War II vets will still get preference because of their ages and the lateness of the World War II Memorial’s completion,” Chilson said.
There are other Honor Flight hubs in Ohio, including the Flag City Honor Flight in Findlay.