By Jake Weien
A few weeks ago, I was honored to be a "Guardian" for the Honor Flight of Southern Colorado's 17th Mission. On this trip I was joined with 53 United States war veterans and 36 other guardians, nurses, counselors, and Honor Flight board members. We visited all of the war memorials, USMC, USAF, and US Navy Memorials, as well as Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The biggest honor was attending this trip with my dad, a Vietnam and Persian Gulf War veteran who served 25 years for our country.
KOAA Channel 5's reporter, Brie Groves and crew joined us to capture these touching moments and to interview some of the heroes we accompanied. KOAA will broadcast their special after the Denver Bronco game Sunday 12 Nov. Details here.
You can see all of Brie Groves' video clips from the Honor Flight online here.
I have delayed sharing this to let the trip totally digest. I made friends with a generation of men who are known to "not talk much" but by the end of it all everyone was socializing and joking and sharing grateful and sometimes horrible stories of their past. For most, if not all, this trip allowed time for all of us to stop and appreciate those that died, are missing, and the lives that we have been allowed. In life, moments like this are very rare.
Many of these veterans never got a homecoming, in fact many of them were spit on and called names upon their return, filling them with shame and regret for doing the job they had to do.
Besides visiting the war memorials dedicated to them and their service, the Colorado Springs Police Department provided an escort out and back into the city. Upon arriving at Dulles Airport we were greeted by scores of people who cheered them and thanked them for their service. Coming home the reception at DIA was outstanding, powerful, and deeply appreciated, not just by the veterans, but everyone in the terminal. It was momentous and emotional.
The "Grand Finale" was our arrival back into The Springs, where our police escort brought us to Sierra High School and a couple hundred local citizens cheered their arrival–complete with a band, balloons, signs, flags, and banners for each veteran.
Each of these veterans did not have to pay for any of it thanks to the dedicated men and women of Honor Flight of Southern Colorado and gracious contributions of local businesses and individuals. If you are looking for a nonprofit that provides closure for our aging war veterans, please make a donation today on their website.
If you are a wartime veteran or have a veteran loved one like my dad, please check out their website and apply.
1350 Distilling was first introduced to Honor Flight of Southern Colorado one year ago by Cindy Long and Oscar Vaughn, board members and ringmasters to this amazing experience. Honor Flight was one of our Angel Battalion's Quarterly Nonprofits in the beginning of 2023, so if you purchased a bottle in our Taste Lounge earlier this year, thank you, for you assisted with giving these men and women a rewarding trip of a lifetime.
A special thanks to Cindy and Oscar, who have been amazing supporters of 1350 Distilling, but most importantly for encouraging my dad and myself to apply for this mission. I cannot thank you enough.