KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Talons Out Honor Flight traveled from Kalamazoo to Washington D.C. Saturday morning, continuing its mission of bringing America’s veterans to visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
The Talons Out Honor Flight is a subdivision of the National Honor Flight organization and is the southwest Michigan hub overseeing the 16 southernmost counties. It has flown over 1,300 Veterans to Washington D.C.
“… There’s actually three hubs in Michigan, including the U.P. and then Traverse City. And so we take veterans from the World War II, Korea and Vietnam era to Washington D.C. to honor them for their service to our country,” Brittany Gervais, flight coordinator for Talons Out Honor Flight, said.
The 23rd mission included 86 veterans and about 190 staff and EMTs, EMS, firefighters, doctors, nurses, photographers and guardians who volunteer to take the veterans to see several sites: Arlington National Cemetery; Arlington Amphitheater Cemetery; the WWII, Korean and Vietnam War memorials and more.
Each veteran is assigned a “community guardian” to help watch over them while they’re on the flights and when they are in the city. Community guardians volunteer for a variety of reasons.
“My father was a career Air Force fighter pilot. So I was an Air Force brat and lived on Air Force bases my entire childhood. And so this is really in honor of him. He served in Vietnam twice. But (he) doesn’t live in the area; he lives out in Las Vegas. And so I thought I, because he’s not able to come with me on the Michigan flight, I would just sign up and just trust that (the) spirit would align me with someone that I was supposed to be with,” Ginny Makita, community guardian, said.
Makita was a community guardian for Connie Spice, a former staff sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps from 1969 to 1990 during the Vietnam War. She is traveling on the Honor Flight to see the memorials and deliver a 51-year-old plaque to the women’s museum. She is one of only three women who participated in the trip.
“It’s nice to meet the two gals that are from the Navy and I’m the only Army,” Spice said. “The one lady served as a nurse during Korea and she’s 90 years old, and she is real nice.”
Talons Out Honor Flight welcomes all veterans but as of Saturday there were more than 489 on the waiting list, according to the group’s website. Volunteers are also welcome to sign up. For more info information on how to get involved, visit talonsouthonorflight.org.