By Mark Ambrogi
The World War II Memorial opened seven years after Grant Thompson’s grandfather died in 1997.
Bill Pace, a Marine who received a Purple Heart for wounds, fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“My grandfather couldn’t go so I wanted to get closure and take somebody else,” Thompson said.
So Thompson took his wife’s great uncle, Marvin Mason, who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, to the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2009. Thompson was so moved and believed other WWII vets should experience it and soon after started Indy Honor Flight.
“Now we take them 178 vets at a time so it snowballed into something real big, real quick,” Thompson said.
Indy Honor Flight is part of the National Honor Flight Network. The next Indy Honor Flight is on Sept. 5, which has been filled, and will include several vets from Hamilton County and Zionsville. Thompson said most will be WWII vets on the trip along with 10 to 20 Korean War vets. There are 186 passengers on each flight with 178 veterans along with guardians and medical volunteers.
“We feel a sense of urgency to get this mission. These (WWII vets) average is 90 so we’re trying everything we can do to get them there quickly as possible while still remaining very safe,” Thompson said.
There will be another Indy Honor Flight on Oct. 31 with two more planes. That trip is called the Fireman’s Flight. Thompson said many firefighters and police officers from around the area serve as the majority of the guardians for those flights.
“Half of those folks are veterans themselves so they understand what this is all about and can relate to the veterans themselves as the day goes on,” Thompson said.
The first Indy Honor Flight was in 2012 with 80 veterans. There have been 11 flights so far.
“We’ve also taken some Vietnam vets who have been diagnosed as terminally ill,” Thompson said. “So if we know they might not be here that much longer we move them to the top of the list.”
For more information or for applications for veterans, visit indyhonorflight.org or call 559-1600.