The 2022 Texas South Plains Honor Flight will be leaving Saturday for Washington, D.C. with approximately 82 area veterans aboard.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, honor flights around the country were cancelled the last two years by the National Honor Flight Network due to concerns for the health of our veterans and restrictions in place in the Washington, D.C. area.
The flight out of Lubbock normally takes place in the fall but due to the cancellation of flights the last two years, the trip was planned for the spring this year.
This year’s flight will be returning between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m. on Monday, May 23 at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. The public is encouraged to come out and celebrate their return.
This year marks the 9th trip made possible with the support of the entire South Plains community.
As always, the organization's first priority is WWII veterans followed by Korean and Vietnam veterans. Veterans with a terminal health condition are also given priority.
"We have taken over 800 veterans on the non-stop Southwestern Airline flight. While in the D.C. area, the veterans will visit the World War II, Korean and Vietnam and Iwo Jima memorials," reads a news release from the Honor Flight. "They will also visit several museums dedicated to their branch of service."
The veterans also participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at several of the memorials including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
This year, they have 138 people going on the trip. There will be 17 staff, 39 guardians (some are veterans themselves) and 82 veterans.
The breakdown per era served is as follows: six Korean, six Korean/Vietnam, 65 Vietnam War and five other eras. On this trip, they have two firsts – the flight's military liaison will be woman. Staff Sgt. Xochitl Lopez will be leading the veterans into the memorials at each stop and assist in the wreath laying ceremonies along with a bagpiper which greatly adds to the experience.
"Sadly, our other first is that we have no WWII veterans going on the flight," organizers said. "Most of the WWII veterans are now in their mid-90’s and older and physically unable to go on the three-day trip. We will sorely miss those of the so-called 'Greatest Generation' on this trip."
For more information about the Texas South Plains Honor Flight visit their website at texassouthplainshonorflight.org or call (806) 790-4635.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: South Plains Honor Flight leaving Saturday from Lubbock