Jun 23, 2010 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Veterans in the Syracuse area may soon have local access to a national program that offers all-expenses paid trips for service men and women to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Randy Flath, of Camillus, and Ed Gould, of Liverpool, are hoping to start a Syracuse chapter of the Honor Flight Network — all they need are dedicated, like-minded locals willing to step up to the plate.
More than anything, Flath and Gould are hoping to ignite an interest among would-be volunteers and prove that enough interest exists locally that a Syracuse chapter could thrive.
Each chapter consists of elected officers and a team of volunteers who tackle a variety of tasks from flights and travel details, serving as “guardians” on each trip to Washington, and even arranging for groups to welcome flights back home at the airport.
“So many people need to come together to make it happen,” Flath said. But so many hands working together to provide the free service to veterans, solidifying a dependable foundation group to move forward with the Syracuse chapter is critical, Flath said. Because the tasks are often spread among a large group of people and very few duties require a full-time commitment, it’s a great opportunity for volunteer-oriented individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
Flath and his father, Don, an Army veteran who served in WWII, experienced their first Honor Flight trip in May 2008. Since then the younger Flath has made a second trip to D.C. with the organization as a guardian, and is convinced Syracuse-area veterans could benefit from a local chapter.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this, it’s a huge undertaking,” Flath said. “But time is ticking away.”
Each day, more than 1,000 American WWII veterans pass away, according to the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
To that end, the waiting lists for Honor Flight trips is prioritized by war, with WWII vets at the top of the list, followed by Korean Conflict and Vietnam vets. Terminally ill veterans of any war are put at the top of the list.
Currently the closest Honor Flight chapters for Syracuse vets are based in Rochester and Albany, leaving a 250-mile gap in Central New York where veterans are unaffiliated with their own chapter. Not only does that mean CNY veterans have to travel to participate with one of those chapters’ flights, they are also put on the waiting list for those cities, grouped in with the hundreds of vets already signed up through their local chapter.
Flath said his and Gould’s next step would be to visit with local groups, from VFW and American Legion posts to the VA hospital and community service organizations, to spread the word about the effort and raise awareness about Honor Flight.
A lot of veterans don’t even know about the program, and when they find out it’s free, they often don’t believe it, Flath said.
Interested in helping form a local chapter of Honor Flight? E-mail Flath and Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org to join their effort. For more information about Honor Flight Network, visit honorflight.org.