The Honor Flight Network, a chain of nonprofit chapters that provide free trips to Washington D.C. for World War II veterans. One of its chapters, Honor Flight Chicago, is now extending its services to Korean War veterans for the first time in April.
Many military veterans from the Korean War didn’t receive a hero’s welcome when the war ended. Chicago resident Lou Kueltzo remembers finding nothing but silence when he finally came home.
“When the guys were coming home from World War II, there was a lot of advertising and the news reels were giving you all the updates what was going on in the war, and in New York guys were running up and down the streets,” he said. “We didn’t have anything like that. There was nothing. That’s why they called it the forgotten war.”
Honor Flight Chicago is hoping to give veterans like Kueltzo a second chance to be honored by the public.
“We need to honor and recognize them before it’s too late,” Mary Pettinato, CEO and co-founder of Honor Flight Chicago said.
When a veteran receives an honor flight, they are flown to Washington D.C. and escorted by active-duty military volunteers to the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials. All along the way, tourists and volunteers alike thank them for their service. A special ceremony is also hosted for the veteran at the WWII Memorial, complete with bag pipes and the honor guard. The entire experience lasts less than a day.
Pettinato said that 1,200 Korean War veterans have already applied for an honor flight.
You can learn what honor flights are all about in the video below.