Great River Honor Flight celebrating 15th year of honoring local veterans

Honor Flight group

| Photo courtesy of Great River Honor Flight

QUINCY — Great River Honor Flight is marking its 15th year of operation this year. The local Honor Flight hub has been offering free trips to Washington, D.C. for local veterans since Veterans Day 2009.

In a press release, Carlos Fernandez, chairman of the Great River Honor Flight board, said, “From the very first trip on April 13, 2010, to the latest one on Oct. 19, 2023, our mission has remained constant — celebrating America’s veterans by inviting them to share a day of honor at our nation’s memorials.”

“None of this would have been possible without the ongoing financial support over the years from the more than 13,000 donors made up of individuals, groups, businesses and the veterans themselves,” treasurer Doug Reed said. “Thanks to their commitment, the Honor Flight program locally remains strong and ready to honor our local veterans with these one-day trips that create lifelong memories.”

There are many stories from the past 14 years, but the proof of the program’s success lies in the numbers it has accomplished. Among them:

  • 68 missions
  • 2,195 veterans honored — 430 WWI; 575 Korea; 1,123 Vietnam; 65 Armed Forces veterans (including guardians that number grows to 3,898)
  • Veterans from 69 counties: 31 in Illinois, 31 in Missouri and 7 in Iowa
  • 120,904 air miles traveled (more than five times around the world)
  • 544 memorials visited
  • 140 buses chartered
  • 11,694 meals served
  • More than 30,000 bottles of water consumed
  • More than 15,000 letters handed out during mail calls

The top 10 tri-state counties that veterans came from:

  • Adams with 699
  • Marion with 284
  • Pike in Illinois with 177
  • Hancock with 174
  • McDonough with 136
  • Ralls in Missouri with 105
  • Lee in Iowa with 95
  • Lewis, with 77
  • Clark with 70
  • Pike in Missouri with 65

Friends of local veterans from 12 states also were part of the total number.

Thousands of pictures from the 68 missions have compiled into DVDs commemorating this special day which each veteran and guardian received.

“And our mission is far from over,” vice-chair Sharon Lake said. “Our number one goal is to ensure that all local veterans are aware of this opportunity and sign up for a future flight.”

Veterans who have served before July 1, 1985 are encouraged to go to www.greatriverhonorflight.com and fill out an application. It is the first step to ensure they will be added to the list for upcoming trips.

Six missions will be offered in 2024. Preparations for those trips are being made and dates finalized.

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