ST. GEORGE — From the red rocks of St. George to the hallowed memorials of our nation’s capital, 20 Southern Utah military veterans will depart early Thursday from the Dixie Center St. George and head to Washington D.C. as part of the next Utah Honor Flight mission.
The St. George group will meet with 25 other veterans from the Wasatch Front for the three-day trip to the East Coast, pushing the Utah Honor Flight’s total number of veterans honored to over 1,000 since the organization’s inception in October 2013.
Utah Honor Flight Chairman Mike Turner said the milestone “speaks volumes” about the level of support the group has received from the community. Turner said:
We have come a long way from our first trip, which was put together at the last minute and pretty helter-skelter. What sticks in my mind from that first trip was just how much those veterans appreciated it. Since then we have dedicated ourselves to perpetuating our mission of taking as many veterans as possible to see their memorials.
On Saturday, the St. George group returns to Utah for a welcome home ceremony at approximately 9 p.m. at the Dixie Center St. George. Everyone is invited to this free event to show their patriotism and gratitude toward these veterans. Many of the local veteran service organizations are expected to attend.
“The welcome home celebration is a great way for our community to come out and show appreciation to these veterans,” said Celeste Sorensen, a Utah Honor Flight board member and one of two St. George-based flight leaders who will be escorting the veterans. “To see them receive the recognition they deserve is heartwarming and always brings a tear to my eye.”
Including guardians for each veteran and a medic, the traveling party from St. George will total 43.
Utah Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that takes veterans to Washington D.C. to see their memorials. The trip includes a lengthy stop at the National Mall, where the veterans will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War II Memorial, followed by stops at the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
There will also be excursions to visit other sites of interest, including the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Air Force Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
“We find that the veterans we bring with us to the memorials leave Utah as old men and women and return as young men and women,” Turner said. “These flights are how, in a small way, we can show our gratitude. We need to honor them while we still can.”
The majority of the veterans departing Thursday served during the Korean War, which was waged between 1950 and 1953 and is often referred to as the “Forgotten War.”
When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the United States of America supplied the bulk of the weapons and personnel that comprised the United Nations forces that came to the aid of South Korea. Battles of Inchon, Imjin River and the Chosin Reservoir – where the temperature plunged to as low as 35 degrees below zero – still reverberate among the veterans who served there.
The youngest of the Korean War veterans are in their 80s now. The youngest World War II veterans are in their late 80s and early 90s.
The expenses for the veterans are funded solely through donations from individuals and companies. Those interested in contributing to Utah Honor Flight can send donations to Utah Honor Flight, P.O. Box 42, Richfield, UT 84701 or call 435-272-0254.
- What: Utah Honor Flight Welcome Home.
- When: Saturday, April 29, 9 p.m. (approximately).
- Where: Dixie Center St. George, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George.
- Additional information: Guests are encouraged to bring patriotic signs and decorations to celebrate the veterans.