SAVOY -- Central Illinois Honor Flight will take off for the third time from Willard Airport on Thursday, and about 70 World War II veterans will head to Washington, D.C., to see war memorials.
It's the 21st flight for the group that sponsors free trips to Washington for veterans throughout central Illinois in order to commemorate their service. And organizer Don Niehart of Effingham said it?s a way to thank them for their sacrifices that did not always get recognized.
The group will see the World War II, Vietnam, Korean, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Lincoln memorials. They'll also take a tour of the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History, as well as see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Va.
When it happens, the veterans? emotions are all over the spectrum, Niehart said.
"Every emotion that you can possibly think of," he said. "A lot of times, it's a way for them to close that part of their lives or open it back up.?
A lot of the memorials were built decades after the wars they commemorate, so a lot of veterans are unable -- either financially or physically -- to travel to Washington to see them, he said.
When they return to Willard Airport on Friday, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School marching band will be there to greet them.
"When the request came in (this year), we jumped at the chance," said Tim Hess, director of the PBL band and commander of the Paxton American Legion post. "The music the students give to our veterans is well-documented, given their annual Salute to Veterans (concert) as well as a performance at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans."
Among the Paxton-area locals set to be on the flight are Edward "Bones" Ogle and Delmar Ronna.
"I know that Bones is very excited at the chance to see the World War II Memorial as well as other sites," Hess said. "At Legion meetings, Bones always has great stories of his time serving in the Navy, but recently the talk has turned to his excitement about the Honor Flight mission."
Paxton Record news editor Will Brumleve and News-Gazette staff writer Patrick Wade contributed to this report.