Honor Flight Northeast Indiana always in search for more volunteers and veterans
In J.M. Flagg’s infamous recruiting poster released in the thick of World War I, Uncle Sam’s emphatic finger point with the phrase “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” was ingrained into the memory of the generations of people that fought in World War I and World War II.
Decades later, Honor Flight Northeast Indiana and its president Dennis Covert feel as if they are following that memorable phrase, continuing their quest to find veterans in which to share the Honor Flight experience with as well as guardians to watch over the finest this nation has to offer.
When I first contacted Covert on participating in the April 25 Honor Flight, I was immediately received with a gentlemanly smile. A veteran of Vietnam himself, Covert knows how to make people feel welcome. His army of volunteers with Honor Flight NEI are just as prepared and enthusiastic to cater to a vet’s every need.
Almost as soon as the April 25 Honor Flight concluded, Covert and his staff began looking at the planned May 23 trip. From the initial breakfast at the 122nd Fighter Wing on the morning of flight day to the triumphant return to Fort Wayne International Airport to the cheers of thousands, Honor Flight NEI does it right.
“We feel it’s important to honor veterans,” Covert said. “These are the people that signed their names to a piece of paper pledging their life to defend this country. For many of the veterans who came back, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare for them. There weren’t too many thank yous issued out.
“Then we had the Vietnam veterans, who some were told to take their uniform off before going through the airport because they were liable to be accosted. That’s changed.”
That is where Honor Flight has come in, and where people come in as well. The organization is always on the search for more volunteers to help with the logistics and planning of the trips, but also as guardians for veterans who may not have someone who can care for them on the trip.
But the Honor Flight is also looking for veterans themselves. While the waiting list is currently hundreds of names long, Covert and his staff effort to prioritize veterans on a variety of factors, from when they served to their health outlook. Many believe Honor Flight is still focusing on World War II veterans. While those veterans still take priority, soldiers from other eras are now getting more seats on the flights.
“We are now taking a lot from the Korean War era,” Covert said. “We took 67 of them on the April flight and we will be close to 70 on the May 23 flight.
“We would like Korea vets to get their apps in. The database is designed to put people into the correct category. We currently have about 750 veterans on the waiting list. If you are a Korea vet, you are going to go to about 120-some on the list.”
In addition to this month’s flight, there are also two trips planned for the fall. Those interested can contact Honor Flight Northeast Indiana at 260-633-0049 or at www.hfnei.org.