KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The pandemic put a halt on travel for many people across the nation and in West Michigan, including veterans.
A Kalamazoo-based honor flight branch has announced it's planning the first trip since COVID-19 began.
Talons Out Honor Flights said the number of veterans signed up to the trips grew exponentially over the pandemic, but donations have slowed down.
With over 500 veterans on the waiting list, Talons Out is holding a "Day of Honor" to help fundraise to send them to Washington, D.C.
Talons Out Honor Flight is preparing for their first trip to Washington, D.C. since November 2019. @FOX17— Lauren Kummer (@LaurenKummerTV) June 30, 2021
While the list of veterans who have signed up has grown, donations have slowed. Talons Out is holding a Day of Honor in hopes to fundraise for their next trip: pic.twitter.com/qojA3NWCcE
"We have been cleared to be able to fly this fall. We are looking at Sept. 18 as our first flight back since Nov. 2, 2019," said Talons Out Honor Flights Secretary and Flight Lead Angela Pettit.
Talons Out Honor Flights had to stop trips to Washington, D.C. due to the pandemic.
"We take World War II, Korean, Vietnam and terminally ill veterans from all conflicts to Washington, D.C. It is a no expense trip for them. We raise funds to do it. We charter an entire airplane and we take them to Washington, D.C. for the day to allow them to be honored at the memorials for their conflicts," said Pettit.
Each trip takes a total of 85 veterans plus family members and volunteers with all expenses paid as a "thank you" for their service.
"It is a very good day for the veterans who haven’t had the welcome home. A lot of our Vietnam veterans haven’t had a welcome home, even some of our World War II veterans. Honestly most of them will not have a welcome home unless you have the welcome home that we have," said Talons Out Honor Flights Volunteer Coordinator Tamara Bird.
The pandemic slowed down donations that Talons Out Honor Flights relies on to be able to send them veterans.
Each trip costs a total of around $120,000, which is why Talons Out Honor Flights is hosting a large fundraiser this year called "Day of Honor."
"This year we are doing a car show, vendor fair, blood drive, motorcycle ride, food truck rally and then we will have a lot of stuff for the kids as well," said Pettit.
The "Day of Honor" will take place on July 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Wings Event Center.
Talons Out Honor Flights will send their first honor flight on Sept. 18. It will depart from the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport.