Houston group helping veterans visit war memorials

Published On: Jul 04 2013 10:20:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 04 2013 10:54:43 PM CDT

July 4, 2013: The Woodland's Walter White is a World War II veteran. This past April, he flew from Austin to Washington, DC with other World War II vets for free. Bill Balleza reports.

HOUSTON -

The Woodland's Walter White is a World War II veteran. This past April, he flew from Austin to Washington, DC with other World War II vets for free.

They went for a whirlwind, emotional tour of war memorials in the nation's capital.

He fondly remembers the Tomb of the Unknown.

"I enjoyed the changing of the guard," said White. "That was very impressive to me."

White recalled the trip with tears in his eyes. His entire visit was free thanks to the non-profit Honor Flight Network.

"I was real glad I got to go. It was something. I really enjoyed it," said White.

Now, for local vets, instead of traveling first to Austin, an Honor Flight Network hub has opened in Houston.

"Our mission is to take every World War II veteran to Washington to see their memorial," said Edd Harshbarger, Chairman of Honor Flight Houston. He added, "We're losing 600 to 800 World War II veterans a day, so time is critical."

Harshbarger founded Honor Flight Houston. His chapter became official last month.

"The veterans did a lot, not just for this country, but the world," said Harshbarger. "So it's time to thank them and honor them."

Even though Houston is now a hub for Honor Flight, the local group has yet to take a trip.

"If we don't get donations, we don't make a flight," said Harshbarger.

The average cost is about $1,000 per veteran. Air fare, buses, the hotel and meals are all included. The veterans can literally go with empty wallets.

"Even if they've been to Washington, D.C., and they've seen the memorial with their family, it's a totally different experience going with other veterans," said Harshbarger.

Harshbarger would like to take 25 veterans on the first flight. He's pushing for this September.

"Honor Flight means we're going to show honor, respect and gratitude to these veterans," said Harshbarger.

"If you have a chance to go on an Honor Flight, please go!" said White. "You will enjoy it. In fact, if I could go again, I'd go again!"

Honor Flight Houston is trying to raise $40,000 for its inaugural flight.

You can send donations through the website.

You can also send checks to Honor Flight Houston, PO BOX 690545, Houston, Texas 77269.

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