Every year, on the third Saturday of May, America comes together to pay tribute to the men and women who have served their country in the military. Armed Forces Day is a time to honor their sacrifices and celebrate their courage. Among the many ways we express our gratitude, one stands out for its unique blend of emotional resonance and symbolic significance: the Honor Flight.

The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. This noble initiative was born out of a simple yet profound idea: to transport these heroes to Washington, D.C., at no cost, to visit and reflect at the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice.

Established in 2005, the organization has since flown tens of thousands of veterans to the nation’s capital. While the program initially focused on World War II veterans, it has expanded to include those who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as veterans from other conflicts, prioritizing those with terminal illnesses.

Armed Forces Day, with its focus on appreciation for the military, offers a particularly poignant context for an Honor Flight. Veterans from across the nation come together, often overcoming physical and emotional challenges to make the journey. They are greeted by crowds of flag-waving patriots who stand in line to thank them personally for their service.

The trip to Washington, D.C., offers veterans a chance to visit several important memorials, including the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In addition, they visit Arlington National Cemetery, witnessing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier—a deeply moving experience that underscores the gravity of their service.

Tourists and group photo of War Veterans, members of Honor Flight Central Florida nonprofit organization, at Pillars on National World War 2 Memorial, National Mall, Washington DC

Kim Solberg, EAPC graphic designer, recently shared this special event with her father, Robert Ness, who served in the Army as a Staff Sergeant.

“Accompanying my father on this once-in-a-lifetime journey served as a heartfelt tribute filled with pride and cherished memories that will forever hold a special place in our hearts.”

EAPCer Kim, her father, and daughter in Washington D.C.

The Honor Flight is not merely a trip; it is an affirmation of gratitude and recognition. It allows these brave individuals a chance to share their stories and memories, often with fellow veterans who can understand their experiences in ways others might not.

The camaraderie and fellowship that develop during this journey are immeasurable. It’s a day where veterans can reminisce, grieve, and heal, often finding closure for experiences that have been carried silently for decades.

One of the most poignant moments of the experience is the return home. Veterans are often met by cheering crowds, a hero’s welcome that serves as a powerful testament to the appreciation our society holds for them. This homecoming can be an emotional climax to an already emotionally charged day, often leaving both the veterans and the onlookers in tears of joy and gratitude.

Armed Forces Day is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by our military personnel, and the Honor Flight amplifies this sentiment tenfold. It offers a heartfelt tribute to those who have served and sacrificed, providing them with the recognition they so richly deserve.

“This day is all about recognizing the brave individuals who have, and still are, defending our country. I feel proud to contribute to the legacy of those who came before me,” said EAPC electrical BIM modeler, Sergeant Salvador Saenz. “It’s a privilege to be part of a country that stands beside us, supporting what we do. Together, we are keeping our nation strong, free, and honorable.”

EAPCer Salvador Saenz and the Mortar platoon part of the 1-635th Armor Regiment in Syria

As we observe Armed Forces Day, let us remember the brave individuals who have risked their lives for our country. The Honor Flight serves as a beacon of our gratitude, a testament to the valor of our veterans. It is a fitting tribute on a day dedicated to their bravery, a day when we say to our veterans, “We remember. We honor. We thank you.”