SOUTHERN UTAH – Almost 50 veterans from Iron and Washington counties, along with trained guardians acting as travel companions, will board buses early Thursday morning bound for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they will take part in a Utah Honor Flight.
The Utah Honor Flight is a program that flies veterans to the District of Columbia to view monuments erected in their honor.
The Cedar City contingency will be represented by 25 World War II and Korean War veterans; the youngest is 78 and the oldest is 97, Iron County Honor Flight Director Dennis Robison said.
All the veterans from St. George are WWII era veterans, Southern Utah Honor Flight Subcommittee Chair Jennie Barnett said.
About Honor Flight
Honor Flight is a national organization that takes veterans, particularly WWII veterans, to the nation’s capital to view memorial monuments. The program operates solely on donations, Barnett said.
In Utah, the Honor Flight program began in 2013, she said. Thursday’s flight will be the third of its kind leaving from Utah, with one more planned this year in the fall.
The organization is currently focusing on taking all of the WWII and terminally ill veterans of any war on the Honor Flight, Robison said.
In 2014, Robison, a Vietnam veteran himself, went on an honor flight as a guardian for his father and his uncle. After the incredible experience, he said, he decided to organize one for Iron County.
Robison and a group of organizers and sponsors were able to raise enough funds to pay the expenses for the 25 Iron County veterans departing Thursday. All guardians taking part in the trip pay their own way, Robison said.
“We just started and figured out we could do it,” he said of the process that began in December 2014. “From the day they (the veterans) were told that they would be taking this trip, I think they got a year younger.”
The Iron County group will meet the St. George group in St. George and, from there, caravan together to Las Vegas, escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders all the way to the airport.
The groups will spend Friday touring the veteran monuments in the District of Columbia. On Saturday, they will raise the flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, before boarding the plane and returning home.
Both the Cedar City and St. George communities have planned homecoming receptions for the veterans’ return.
In Cedar City, community members are asked to gather at the Leavitt Group Hangar at the Cedar City Airport, 2560 Aviation Way, to welcome the veterans home.
When these veterans returned home from the war, Robison said, there were no cell phones or tablets to communicate they would be back, so they would often get off a bus and head home without anyone knowing they were coming.
Robison said he wants to give the Honor Flight veterans the welcome home they deserved so many years ago, and he has planned an elaborate gathering complete with police escorts, a helicopter to light their path, firetrucks and, hopefully, many members of the community greeting them with flags and signs, he said.
“We want these guys to have a big welcome home when they get back,” Robison said.
On the return trip, the veterans will once again be escorted from Las Vegas to the Dixie Center in St. George by the Patriot Guard Riders. Barnett also asks community members in St. George to come out and greet the veterans with flags, signs and patriotic clothing.
The Honor Flight is scheduled to return to Las Vegas at approximately 5 p.m. PDT on Saturday. Both gatherings will take place around 8 p.m. MDT, with the understanding that all times are approximate because of the uncertainties of travel.
- What: Utah Honor Flight homecoming events
- When: Cedar City welcome home: Saturday, June 6, approximately 8-10 p.m. | St. George welcome home: Saturday, June 6, approximately 8-10 p.m.
- Where: Cedar City: Leavitt Group Hangar, Cedar City Airport, 2560 Aviation Way, Cedar City | St. George: Dixie Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George
- Additional information: Bring flags, banners and dress in patriotic clothing to welcome the veterans home. Because of travel uncertainties, all times are approximate.
- Utah Honor Flight | Website
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