Honor Flight South Dakota connected those with memories of World War II with the memorials built to honor their dedication and sacrifice. Without Honor Flight, many of the veterans who boarded airplanes from South Dakota and touched down in Washington, D.C., would have never made the trip. Organizers say Honor Flight bonded all South Dakotans.
"Whether it was raising funds or providing the send off for the veterans or welcoming them home, South Dakota really stepped up and made a trip of a lifetime to honor our World War II veterans," organizer Dave Landry said.
Honor Flight South Dakota has concluded its operation, but the giving continues. Monday, Honor Flight presented special American flags and a letter of gratitude to the three initial sponsors of the program, including KELOLAND TV, Sanford Health and First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard. Those organizations jump started the fundraising. Honor Flight's 12 flights had a price tag of $1.6 million.
"We were right in the midst of a recession, fuel was extremely expensive and there were some real questions as to whether we really could organize an event such as this. We thought initially we'd do one or two flights," Landry said.
Donations continued to Honor Flight even after the final trip. That money has been donated to state organizations of the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. Even though Honor Flight is over, the memories of the trips remain. And those who served are forever grateful for the opportunity to see the attractions of Washington, D.C.
"I enjoyed every one of them with almost equal ability. They were just so fantastic in nature that you just can't believe it until you see it," Veteran Ken Salisbury said.
And without Honor Flight, that's an opportunity that may have never arrived.
Take a look back on the stories from Honor Flight as reported by KELOLAND News.