Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight may only be a few weeks old according to the state of Virginia, but it has been something that has been stirring for quite a while. In order to understand how Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight came to be, we have to first jump back to October 2012.
In addition to my new role as President and CEO of Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight, I am the Director of Facilities and Risk Management for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. October 2012 saw the first visit by an Honor Flight hub to the National D-Day Memorial. This was when I had the privilege of meeting Edie Lowry, the President and CEO of Northeast Tennessee Honor Flight.
Since then, Edie has ensured that her hub’s semi-annual visits to the D.C. memorials have included a stop in Bedford on their way home. These visits continue to be one of the highlights of my year as these veterans share their experiences in D.C.—how many of them had never felt so honored before and how some of them, especially Korea and Vietnam veterans, had never been thanked for their service before until their Honor Flight trip.
On June 6, 2014 the Honor Flight Network brought over 300 D-Day and World War II Veterans to the Memorial to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy invasion. These landings were arguably the first domino that toppled the rest and ultimately led to the liberation of the European continent from Nazi tyranny. Although on a much smaller scale, the planning, logistical coordination and flawless execution by Honor Flight to make this visit possible, was nothing short of amazing.
Through these interactions, I met individuals such as Edie and Jeff Miller, one of the co-founders of Honor Flight Network. At their encouragement, I attended the annual Honor Flight Summit in Baltimore to raise awareness of the D-Day Memorial. As I conversed with staff from the hubs across our nation at the summit, I learned that the Virginia hubs were in the north and east regions of our state. I realize there existed a huge void in the central and southwest regions of Virginia. This was further reinforced less than three months later when it came to my attention that veterans from our region were driving over three hours out of their way to be a part of Honor Flight trips organized by other hubs—keep in mind that it is just over three hours to get to D.C. from Bedford.
So here we are. Our objective is to launch the first Honor Flight trip in April 2018 to take our veterans from Bedford, Lexington, Charlottesville, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Danville and all throughout our region who have a desire to visit the national memorials that were created in their honor. These trips to the memorials are completely free of charge to our veterans.
To bring this to fruition, we need your support. Share what we are doing and visit our donation page. This only scratches the surface on what we owe our veterans for our freedom—many of whom have never been appropriately thanked for their service to our country.
Martin Leamy, President and CEO