Tribute flights bring closure to many who served –
By Patricia Beech –
Ron Swearingen was surprised by the size of the crowd who greeted him and his fellow veterans Tuesday, May 23 at CVG International Airport in Cincinnati .
The Adams County native was one of 72 veterans returning home from an Honor Flight to Washington, DC.
“It was really unbelievable how many people showed up to honor veterans,” Swearingen said of the cheering crowd gathered at CVG.
The 77-year-old Swearingen earned his Airman First Class E4 rank in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.
While the trips to DC are meant to honor veterans, they also represent a time of healing and closure for many Vietnam veterans who were not met by cheering crowds and ticker-tape parades when they returned home from war.
Swearingen called the trip “a moving experience”.
“It was a wonderful day,” he said. “We reminisced and told stories, and everywhere we landed people were there to cheer us and thank us for our service.”
The Honor Flight Tri-State is a nonprofit organization that allows veterans to visit the nation’s capitol at no cost.
All veterans traveling on the Tri-State flight are from southwestern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana.
“Our goal is to honor as many veterans as we can,” said Cheryl Popp, director of Honor Flight Tri-State.
While in the nation’s capital, veterans visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the US Air Force Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, and other Washington sites. They are also treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet before boarding the flight home.
The flights depart CVG at 8 a.m and are preceded by a bagpipe salute from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, a TSA color guard ceremony, and other special remarks in the area near the east end of the security checkpoint, all beginning about 6 a.m.
“Hosting these events is a privilege for CVG,” said Candace McGraw, Chief Executive Officer for CVG. “Honoring our national heroes in such a unique way brings everyone in attendance a lot of joy. It is a great experience for all involved.”