Honor Flight of the Ozarks is part of the national Honor Flight Network. It’s a nonprofit organization that honors America’s veterans by giving them a free trip to Washington, D.C. to visit memorials and other patriotic sites.
With the help of donors and volunteers, the Honor Flight of the Ozarks makes this annual trip a reality for thousands of veterans in southwest Missouri. One volunteer is Michael Davis, a graduate student in the Master of Professional Studies – Homeland Security program.
A veteran of the United States Marines, Davis has been on nine Honor Flights – eight as a volunteer and one as a participant. He shares more insight about his experience.
A day filled with laughter and tears
I first volunteered to be a guardian on the Honor Flight in 2013. I made my first flight in May that year. Guardians must pay for their trip at a cost of $500. I decided to become a volunteer as a way of rendering my deepest respect and gratitude to my fellow veterans for their dedication and sacrifice on behalf of the United States of America.
As a guardian, some of the duties include loading equipment onto the jet and buses and making the boarding process as easy as possible for the veteran. We also accompany the veteran through the war memorials. Most importantly, we ensure the complete safety of the veteran.
The experience in Washington, D.C. is unique in every way. Emotion, adrenaline and excitement fill the day. We reminisce with the veterans of times past. We talk about old friends and acquaintances, duty stations, war stories, good times and some things better forgotten.
Laughter and tears fill our time and, upon returning home, everyone is emotionally drained.
Making a difference for those who served
My favorite part of the Honor Flight is being with my fellow veterans and sharing in an integral part of their lives.
Flying as a veteran on the Honor Flight last year was an absolutely unique experience. It was different for me to have a guardian who watched out for and met my every need. The level of respect and gratitude given to me as we visited every war memorial was emotional and breathtaking.
Flight No. 10 for me is right around the corner on Aug. 29, 2017.
Volunteering for this program is a way to let our nation’s veterans know they have not been forgotten. Their service and sacrifice for the United States means something in the hearts of the American people.