“I’m proud to be standing here in the heat this afternoon with so many people from Owensboro and the surrounding communities to say ‘welcome home’ to these vets.” – Barbara Poynter
Seventeen Owensboro area World War II veterans enjoyed a trip of a lifetime on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
This afternoon, they were welcomed back home in ticker tape parade fashion.
During the trip, the veterans were accompanied by a police escort as they visited all five memorials in Washington, D.C as well as Arlington Cemetery.
Hundreds lined the sidewalk at Owensboro Christian Church to welcome them back to Owensboro shortly after noon today. Flags waved, patriotic music played, a giant American flag was flown from an extended fire truck ladder, kids carried “welcome home” signs, and cell phones were held up ready to take pictures.
According to Patrick Savage, Director of Veteran Outreach with Southern Indiana Honor Flight, there are now 133 Honor Flight chapters in 44 states. The Honor Flight from Western Kentucky/Owensboro was organized by the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department and the Rotary Club. The trip was coordinated through the Bluegrass Chapter, based in Louisville, where the flight departed for D.C.
“Five years ago we noticed the western Kentucky region wasn’t being served by Honor Flight and flights from Louisville were difficult for our older veterans,” said Barbara Poynter, who constantly updated the waiting crowd as the caravan arrived. “We take care of gathering the veterans, doing all the paperwork, providing transportation, and coordinating lodging and meals. This is 100% free for the veterans,” Poynter explained. With the help of a grant from the Horn Family Foundation, the cost for the guardians (who accompany the veterans to help care for them on the trip) is also covered.
As the motorcycle brigade rumbled into the parking lot, handheld flags and cheers greeted the two Audubon Area Community Services Buses that transported the veterans. Once the bikes were parked, those veterans helped the Honor Flight attendees off the bus and walked them over to chairs for the ceremony.
Sheriff Keith Cain stepped off the bus from his ninth Honor Flight trip. “Each one of these trips is emotional, as you can imagine,” he told the crowd, adding that it’s also a time of incredible laughter. “They call this Honor Flight for a reason. It truly is an honor to recognize the service and sacrifice of these men. But it’s also an honor for us to stand in the shadow of these men.”
One of the men on this flight was 92-year-old Colonel Edward Francis Pickett, who amazingly is a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He is also a Silver Star Recipient for Valor and was elected “trip commander” on this Honor Flight. “He kept me on my toes this whole time,” Cain said. “And after spending the last three days together, I’m now proud to call him a true friend.”
Following the heartfelt ceremony, lunch was provided for all in attendance. Field (Specialty Foods Group) donated the hot dogs and burgers, which were grilled by volunteers from the American Legion. Sara Lee donated the buns. Moonlite donated the potato salad.
“Honor Flight is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Savage said. “Some of these older veterans say they don’t need to go, but I always tell them ‘you deserve this! This is retroactive pay for your service.’”