CINCINNATI (AP) — A program that takes military veterans to Washington to view war memorials is limiting new applications for some veterans from Ohio and neighboring states due to decreased funding, a program spokesman said Tuesday.
A decline in funding has led organizers of Honor Flight Northwest Ohio to stop accepting new applications from World War II veterans who already have seen the memorials and from veterans of other conflicts, including the Korean and Vietnam wars.
But the group hopes to eventually serve all veterans already on the waiting list, regardless of the war involved, said Jim Tichy, a spokesman and former board member for the Toledo-based group.
The program originally was created to take World War II veterans to Washington to see the National World War II Memorial, but veterans from other wars have been included on the trips that also stop at other memorials.
More than 600 veterans already on the list include northwest Ohio residents and some from Michigan and Indiana. The group has seen an influx of applicants from adjacent states as other honor flight hubs have closed, Tichy said.
The number of veterans has continued to grow, while donations from organizations and individuals have declined for the program that began in 2008. But the volunteer organization is committed to trying to keep on offering flights.
“It’s a daunting task when you look at the number of veterans, but we are working diligently to try to make it possible for all veterans who want to take the trips,” Tichy said. “It’s our opportunity to thank them for the sacrifices they made to preserve our freedom.”
Each chartered flight costs around $72,000 for about 80 veterans and a corresponding number of “guardians” who go on the trips to help. There were six flights last year and four scheduled this year, Tichy said. The guardians are asked to make donations for the privilege of escorting the veterans, he said.
World War II veteran Al McEwen, of Maumee, took one of the flights about four years ago.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have that opportunity,” McEwen, 94, said. “And it was so wonderful to know that people appreciate all that we did.”
Tichy said other honor flight hubs in Ohio include Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Findlay and the Akron-Canton area.
Bill Nicklas, vice president of Honor Flights Dayton Inc. in southwest Ohio, said that donations have remained fairly steady for the flights that cost about $15,000 each. The organization based in Springfield north of Cincinnati takes smaller groups and doesn’t have to charter flights.
“We are blessed in that we can book blocks of tickets out of the Dayton airport on regularly scheduled commercial flights,” Nicklas said.
He said the group takes around 35 veterans plus 22 staff members and guardians on trips once a month from April through November.
By LISA CORNWELL