SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - After prioritizing World War II and Korean War veterans for the last 12 years, Honor Flight San Diego is starting the process of allowing Vietnam veterans on their trip to Washington D.C.
Honor Flight is a nonprofit that flies veterans to D.C. to tour their war memorials, completely free of charge for the veterans.
Board member and trip leader Dee Folse said the San Diego hub has prioritized the older generations since its inception in 2010 because of the large number of veterans who live in the area.
“Our mission statement for Honor Flight is we take our most senior veterans to witness our memorials. Because this place is so beautiful, so many veterans want to retire here so we’re one of the few hubs still taking World War II veterans,” said False.
He said that is now changing. Honor Flight San Diego is planning the first all-Vietnam veteran flight, scheduled to leave Sept. 30, 2022.
“We don’t think Vietnam veterans were properly thanked, that’s our mission is to make sure these veterans understand that they are loved and we’re going to welcome home all our veterans, especially our Vietnam,” said False.
This first Vietnam trip will be completely made up of Seawolves, a squadron of 2,556 people that was both commissioned and decommissioned during the Vietnam War, although they were not officially recognized by Congress until 2010. Honor Flight said the Seawolves are the most decorated Navy squadron of the Vietnam War and in all of Naval Aviation History.
Gary Ely will be one of the about 100 San Diego-area Seawolves on the fall trip. He currently works on the USS Midway, helping restore and maintain one of the Hueys used by Seawolves.
Ely said he’s honored to be invited on Honor Flight’s trip.
“Very appreciative that they would recognize us. As most Vietnam vets know, it's been a long time coming and I believe that I'm humbled, looking forward to going back and do this stuff with my colleagues,” he said.
Honor Flight San Diego said for now, Seawolves will be the only Vietnam veterans eligible to apply for the fall trip. Moving forward, more trips will be scheduled dependent on funding. Each trip costs about $250,000, which is all donation-based. The trip is completely free for the veterans.