As of Friday, August 11, 2017
America is losing 330 World War II veterans every day and 96 percent of the 16.1 million who served in that conflict are now dead.
The average age of the surviving 600,00 veterans from WWII is well over 90.
“Time is of the essence to honor our ‘Greatest Generation,’” said Dick Tobiason, a retired Army officer who leads Honor Flight of Eastern Oregon, a nonprofit organization based in Bend.
The group is getting ready to fly eight to 10 veterans and their guardians to Washington, D.C., to see the WWII memorial built to honor their service and sacrifice. HFEO covers all expenses for the veterans.
Although all of the seats are currently full for the Sept. 6-10 flight, Tobiason said there could be some last-minute cancellations so WWII vets are still urged to apply.
If they don’t get chosen for the 2017 trip, he said their names will be added to a waiting list for two flights in 2018.
“We take veterans using wheelchairs, canes, walkers and oxygen,” said Tobiason. “We encourage veterans to have an able family member, relative or friend serve as their guardian.” He said medical staff accompany the veterans, who will visit not only the WWII Memorial, but the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln, Korea, Vietnam, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Navy, Air Force, and Iwo Jima (Marine) memorials.
In addition, they will tour the Women in Military Service for America Museum and Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.
Honor flights are four days in duration and the veterans return to a heroes’ welcome at Portland International Airport.
To qualify for the trip, WWII vets must:
• Have served anywhere in the Armed Forces of the United States between Dec. 7, 1941, and Dec. 31, 1946;
• Live within HFEO’s service area, which covers all 17 counties east of the Cascades between Oregon’s borders with California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington.
• Not have visited the WW II memorial in the past; and,
• Be able to travel.
Tobiason said, during the past seven years, HFEO and its predecessor, Bend Heroes Foundation, has honored 550 WWII veterans.
HFEO is one of 130 “hubs” in 44 states participating in the national Honor Flight Network. Tobiason said about 160,000 veterans from across the country have participated in the Honor Flight program that was launched 11 years ago so that WWII vets could view their memorial, which opened in 2004 and has drawn more than five million visitors.
For more information, call 541-388-5591 or visit the online site, www.honorflightofeasternoregon.org.