MANCHESTER, NH – You have to get up pretty early in the morning if you want to see how it’s done. Honor Flight New England has for a dozen years now organized flights for veterans to Washington, D.C., to have a chance to visit the monuments and memorials honoring those who served, and died, fighting in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
On Sept. 12 the group’s founder and heart, Joe Biron, joined with several volunteer “guardians” who each provided companionship for a veteran on the trip. Organizers are up long before the sun for the 5 a.m. gathering at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, where two buses were loaded with 25 veterans and their guardians, bound for Logan Airport where they then boarded a flight to the nation’s capital.
Above: Two busloads of veterans and volunteer Honor Flight “guardians” who watched over the heroes who were Washington D.C.-bound. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings
It’s a trip that has provided some closure, nostalgia and camaraderie for more than 2,100 veterans on 55 flights since Biron launched the New England chapter of the national service organization back in 2009. As always, Biron and the entire Honor Flight staff do all they can to make sure the trips are comfortable, safe – and free for the veterans – but also full of fanfare. Volunteers are asked to come out for their departure and return, and the community always comes through.
Buses were escorted as they rolled out of the airport by Manchester Police, Londonderry Police, NH State Police, the Hillsborough County Sheriff, and the Patriot Guard Riders.
On Sunday a young man who encountered the group at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport played a moving rendition of “Taps,” which was posted on the Honor Flight New England Facebook page.
Mayor Joyce Craig was on hand for their early departure from the Manchester airport to help send off the heroes.
Due to the pandemic, Honor Flight has been grounded since Nov. 2019, its last official flight. The whirlwind trip sees to it that the veterans are back home the same day. Manchester Assistant Police Chief Steve Mangone has been part of Honor Flight New England since its inception in support of Biron, a former fellow Manchester Police Officer. Mangone was there Sunday along with several other officers from Manchester and Londonderry as well as NH State Police.
To learn more about Honor Flight New England or to get involved, go to honorflightnewengland.org