It is with profound thanks and appreciation that Honor Flight of Southern New Mexico joins the rest of the country in thanking our veterans and all military service members. Memorial Day caps an entire month that has been set aside for Military Appreciation. No matter where, when or how they served, our veterans deserve our utmost respect.
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit national organization originally created to honor America’s WWII veterans. HFSNM has evolved to include Korean War veterans; Vietnam veterans are also included as room permits. It takes a year of hard work and many volunteers to plan and execute these successful trips. The veterans make it all worthwhile.
In 2016 veteran Frank Torres, who served in Vietnam from 1966 to ’67, years he described as “very bad,” was part of HFSNM’s Mission 9 tour to take veterans back to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials. He says, “The trip was my homecoming in a way because I had never really experienced anything like that… people welcoming you home and greeting you, especially at the airports. It was beautiful! All the kids…it was an awesome experience!”
A new group of area veterans will embark on HFSNM’s Mission 10 later this fall. Honor Flight volunteers work year round to provide this “trip of a lifetime” for the veterans at no cost to them. They are finalizing plans to mark this 10th anniversary and anticipating an extra special trip for the veterans.
Veterans Willard Hunt and Lowell Hughes both served in WWII and will be on the Honor Flight this fall. Their memories capture an eyewitness look at history. Hunt was with the Army Air Corps, researching and working with instrumentation on the new planes. He recalls, “I worked with the test pilots Yeager, Walker and a few more of them… they wanted me to take pictures of aircraft landing and I took pictures of Yeager blowing out a couple of tires on the P80. He came across the desert later and we stopped him.” Hunt later worked for the Navy Civil Service at Holloman Air Force Base and continues to live in Alamogordo. Each Honor Flight veteran is assigned a guardian for the trip to Washington, D.C. and he is delighted that his daughter will serve as his.
Hughes was with the Army’s 45th Infantry Division and the 120th Engineers Battalion. He enlisted out of Roswell and says, “I came back here because I couldn’t find anywhere I liked the climate as well as Roswell, it’s got about as good a climate as you’ll find.” His service included four landings, three months pinned down in Anzio and the liberation of Dachau prison camp. “Our division had more combat days than any division in the United States,” he says, “511 officially combat days in all that trip. I never got wounded nowhere, I cannot believe it. I can’t even believe that the good Lord has left me here but there’s some reason. Everybody says it’s because I can tell other people about it.” And he does, going into schools to share a bit of his story with the next generation.
For many of the veterans who make the Honor Flight trip the experience is deeply healing as some are thanked and honored for the first time. Torres says, “Being there in Washington was awesome, going to The Wall especially. It brought a lot of tears to my eyes….I told Linda (his guardian) it’s once in a lifetime. I you can get on that Honor Flight, to go and experience it with all your fellow veterans, Korean veterans, WWII, Vietnam, as far as I’m concerned we’re all brothers. My experience with that Honor Flight was beautiful!”
Looking to get involved? Know a veteran who would be honored to make the trip? Or want to make a donation to help sponsor a veteran or guardian? Go to http://honorflightnm.org/ to learn more or call us toll free at 1-844-697-1590.