Honor Flight of Southern New Mexico (HFSNM) is preparing for their 2016 mission this fall, September 30 through October 2. The organization is in its 9th year of escorting veterans back to see their memorials in Washington, D.C. They will be taking veterans from several local communities, including Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Silver City and Roswell as well as others across the southern part of the state and El Paso.
This year some of the WWII veterans have been interviewed and their profiles are being featured on the HFSNM website at honorflight.nm.org. Betty Somppi, one of the veterans going on the trip this year, was one of the first WAC officers. She is a charter member of the Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC and her biography can be viewed as part of the data base there. She says, “We were right there at the beginning. We got a lot of kidding about it…I was so proud that we had anything to do with that.” She since became friends with Major General Gwendolyn Bingham when the general was at White Sands Missile Range. She makes this trip in honor of her husband, Jimmy, a veteran in his own right who passed away not long ago. She turned 101 this year and he would be proud.
Another couple, George and Ida Mae Ellis, are also both WWII veterans. They will be making the trip back east together courtesy of Honor Flight of S. NM. George had been stationed at Fort Bliss and Ida Mae served at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in the awards and decorations center. She recalls many times donating blood to the soldiers and going up to the wards to witness the soldiers receiving their awards from the general. George is a highly decorated veteran of not only WWII, but Korea and Vietnam, the recipient of four purple hearts in addition to many other distinctions. He says, “The greatest aspect of the war is the men that served, particularly as enlisted men.”
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit 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. We thank and honor all veterans for their sacrifices. Currently, 492 World War II veterans are dying each day across our nation; our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out. The Korean War impacted many thousands of veterans as well and we are actively seeking to honor them for their service and sacrifices. During the Honor Flight missions, veterans are escorted, at no cost to them, to Washington, D.C. to be honored at their memorials. Preparations are being finalized for this year’s mission and it promises to be memorable!
Although Honor Flight Mission 9 is full this year, the group begins planning for next year’s trip as soon as they return. Applications are accepted year round and all branches of service are represented, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Army Air Corp. While WWII and Korean vets are taken first Vietnam veterans will be put on the waiting list and of course a terminally ill veteran from any era will be put at the top of the list and will go on the next available tour. Since 2005, the Honor Flight Network has transported 159,703 veterans to Washington D.C. at absolutely no cost to them. Last year alone almost 21,000 veterans made the trip.
The ADOPT A VETERAN program was started in 2012 and has enjoyed enthusiastic support with the community adopting 97 veterans in the first three years. The adoption fee is $1,200 and covers most of the Veteran’s expenses. Individuals or organizations that adopt a veteran will be listed in our banquet program and will be invited to the annual veteran reunion where they will be presented a plaque commemorating the donation. One may also ADOPT-A-VETERAN in memory of or in honor of someone special.
It is not necessary to ADOPT-A-VETERAN to make this trip a reality for a veteran; donations of any amount are appreciated. The number of veterans we can accommodate each year is totally dependent on the funds we raise. Make this the year you help honor our vets by donating to help them go on Honor Flight 9 or volunteering to serve as a guardian alongside a veteran. For more information go to