Honor Flight recognizes U.S. veterans’ service

World War II ended nearly 70 years ago and the number of veterans who served during the war is dwindling.

But the spirit of those who served is just as strong as it was when they were inducted into the service years ago, and nearly as spirited are the younger generations inspired by their dedication.

This enthusiasm takes flight literally through the Honor Flight Network, which takes veterans to Washington, D.C., on an all-expenses-paid trip to view the memorials erected in their honor.

It’s just a small token of appreciation, according to Honor Flight Southern Nevada, the local branch of the national organization.

The local organization, which was founded in June, is accepting applications for the spring flight, scheduled for April 24-27. Selection of honorees began earlier this month.

Veterans from World War II are given priority, but those who served during the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan wars are eligible.

There is no cost to the veterans and they are accompanied by guardians to help ensure they have a safe and memorable experience. The guardians pay their own way.

Spouses are not allowed to serve as guardians, unless they are veterans or the veteran on the honor flight is medically dependent.

Glen Olson, who served in the Navy during World War II, was fortunate enough to share the experience with his youngest son, Alan, who served as his guardian.

Olson said one of the highlights of the trip was touring Arlington National Cemetery.

“It was something I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to go,” he said. Of the World War II Memorial, Olson said, “It’s a sad thing to see. We don’t want anyone to ever forget there was a World War II.”

Another touching moment for Olson was when five “little girls” came to thank him for his service. “They were so happy to live in a free country,” he said.

Olson is one of three Boulder City veterans who participated in the May honor flight through the national organization, which was founded in 2005.

He was invited to apply through the local American Legion, where he is a member.

“It didn’t take too much to talk me into going,” he said.

Boulder City resident Ruth Taylor, who was in the Navy WAVES, recruited Olson for the trip. She also applied and was one of six women from Clark County who made the trip.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words … it’s a trip of a lifetime. You’re with people that know exactly how you feel because they went through it, too.”

Now that she has participated in an Honor Flight, she is more enthusiastic than ever about getting other veterans to submit an application.

“So many of the elderly are passing away and might not ever get another chance,” she said. “It’s a wonderful group. Every need was taken care of and anticipated. It was marvelous and I didn’t have to pay for a thing.”

Taylor was accompanied by her granddaughter, Mercy Heard-Varela of Henderson, who also helped with the other veterans on the trip.

In addition to veterans seeking to make the trip and guardians, Honor Flight Southern Nevada needs more volunteers.

For more information, call 702-749-5912 or visit www.honorflightsouthernnevada.org.