By Steven Penn email@example.com
Hendricks County Flyer
---- — Seventy World War II veterans took part in the Indy Honor Flight to the National WW II Memorial in the nation’s capital Saturday and received a hero’s welcome upon returning.
The group of veterans took off from Indianapolis at about 8 a.m. and landed at about 8:30 p.m. Each veteran is paired with a guardian and the group was able to visit the WW II Memorial for about two hours and got to do some other sightseeing in Washington, D.C., as part of the trip.
Thousands of Hoosiers lined up at the Indianapolis International Airport to give veterans the homecoming many of them never received. Many held flags and signs, while welcoming members of the Greatest Generation home. Women dressed in 1940s attire planted as kisses on each veteran’s cheek while they traveled through the procession
Don Schauwecker, an Indy Honor Flight committee member who lives in Avon, said this all started in 2012.
“This is the fourth flight for us,” he said. “We started our first flight in the fall of 2012. Then we took two flights last year — one in the spring and one in the fall. This year were taking two flights (in the spring/summer). This is the first one and May 10 is the next one. We’re taking two in the fall, and possibly three if we get enough veterans.”
Schauwecker said there was an Honor Flight that took place in Lafayette, but many in the city felt it was time to bring one to Indianapolis.
“It all started out on a whim,” he said. “The (American) Gold Star Mothers out of Lafayette were the first group to get this thing (going) out of Lafayette, it started up there.”
Schauwecker said it’s important for the veterans to be able to see the WW II Memorial.
“It took 60 years to get it built, so there’s a lot of them that will never see it,” he said. “Out of 16 million veterans there’s less than a million left. We’re losing them at about 700 a day, so it’s critical we get them out there as soon as we can.”
Not only do veterans receive a hero’s welcome, they also get a care package and a picture of the group at the memorial.
Veterans are responding to the opportunity, as the next Honor Flight is already full.
“We’re looking for WWII veterans (for the flights later this year),” Schauwecker said. “We probably will eventually start taking Korean vets as well, but we want to make sure (enough WW II vets go). The average age on this flight is 90 years old and probably the youngest are 86. Those are the guys that lied about their age to get in at 16 or 17.”
When the Indy Honor Flight first started, Schauwecker said they held it at the National Guard Armory, located at 3912 W. Minnesota St., but quickly outgrew that venue.
“After the second trip, we had so many people … that we packed that place,” he said. “We moved it over and the one we had here in the fall, we had about 2,500 people here to welcome them back.”
Unfortunately, there’s a chance the event might outgrow the airport, which speaks to how much Hoosier respect their veterans.
“One of our fears is we’re going to outgrow this place,” he said. “It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing.”
Schauwecker said the airport has been great to work with.
“The airport has rolled out the carpet to us and treated us very well,” he said. “I think they’re excited to have us here.”
Schauwecker said the Indy Honor Flight is still looking for veterans and guardians for the flights later this year.
For more information, visit the website www.indyhonorflight.com or call 559-1600.