An Omaha-based nonprofit is ready to fire up jets Red, White and Blue and send three more planeloads of Nebraska Vietnam veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C. next spring.
Bill and Evonne Williams of Patriotic Productions have set May 1, 2017, as the date for the next Vietnam Veterans flight, which will carry 500 more veterans to the nation’s capital for a daylong trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other patriotic sites.
It’s a follow-up to their Vietnam Combat Veterans Flight on June 6, which took 502 veterans to Washington — the largest group of veterans from one state ever to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The flights drew a cheering, flag-waving crowd to Eppley Airfield to greet them on their return.
“That 5,000 people in Omaha — it was some deal,” Bill Williams said.
The response was even bigger than a series of nine “Honor Flights” the Williamses organized for World War II and Korean War veterans between 2008 and 2014.
He said Vietnam vets were moved to tears by the experience and the welcome home — in part because many of them were treated with indifference or even hostility when they returned home almost 50 years ago from a war that had grown unpopular.
Williams said one veteran told him that the nightmares he’d suffered since returning from Vietnam 45 years ago had suddenly ceased after the flight.
“It’s touching, the therapeutic value of what it’s done for them,” Williams said.
About 250 veterans who applied for the June 6 flight couldn’t join the trip because of a lack of space.
This time, Williams said, they’ll have another chance. And unlike the last flight, this one won’t be restricted to combat veterans.
Also for the first time, the flights will leave from the Lincoln Airport instead of Eppley. Williams said that will make it more convenient for a new group of people to turn out and welcome the veterans home.
Williams said he will mount another fundraising drive to raise $450,000 to cover the costs associated with the trip, including the three aircraft, the pre-flight banquet, hotel rooms for the veterans and their families, and local transportation costs on both ends of the flight.
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