Nonprofit Honor Flight San Diego flies veterans out to Washington D.C. to tour their war memorials and is now expanding eligibility for veterans who can take the trip. Previously, the Southern California hub prioritized the older generations, only allowing World War II and Korean War veterans (with some exceptions for terminally ill veterans). Starting in fall of 2022, Vietnam-era vets will now be allowed.
Honor Flight San Diego first announced a September 2022 trip that will be completely full of Seawolves, a squadron that was both commissioned and decommissioned during the Vietnam War.
Now, Honor Flight San Diego has announced a second all-Vietnam veteran flight that leaves in October. This second flight is open to any Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart or higher, and applications are now open. The goal is to fly 85 Vietnam veterans on the first flight and another 100 on the second.
This hits home for a generation who did not get the same ‘welcome home’ many get today. Gary Soper, a double Purple Heart recipient living in Vista, plans to go on the flight with his identical twin brother Larry, who is also a double Purple Heart recipient who served in Vietnam.
Soper said he’s proud of his 22 years in the Marine Corps, but still remembers the sting of coming home to criticism after Vietnam.
“When we got back, nobody cared about us at all,” he said, going on to say “Sometimes when I’m sitting on the couch and I see all these Marines and Army and Navy coming back from Afghanistan and everybody’s hi-ing them and you know, I sit there and cry a little bit. Tears in my eyes because we didn’t get that, we didn’t get anything.”
He said going to Washington D.C. will not only be a ‘thank you’ he’s been waiting for, but a unique bonding experience for him and others who went through exactly what he went through.
“It made me happy because I said wow I get to be around other Marines, Air Force, Navy that also been to Vietnam so it should be a great time and at least when I talk to them, they’ll understand what I’m talking abut and what they’re talking about,” he said.
Eligible veterans can apply for the flight here.