BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight program will take off on its fourth trip to Washington, D.C. Close to 200 people, most of them veterans, will be on board this time around.
In order to keep the program going for years to come, the group is looking for the community to step in.
"The cost of each flight is about $90,000 now. The guardians pay about $500 a piece, which offsets maybe 30 to 35 percent of it," explained Guardian Chairman Teddy Matthews. "As far as the funding for next year, we don't know how many veterans we're going to have, but we're planning on at least considering a flight in 2013."
In order for these flights to continue, the honor flight program is depending on the community. Without the support of industries, small businesses and citizens, the honor flights wouldn't be possible.
"The funding is lower. This year we had less donations for this flight," Matthews said. "The coast mainly supports the majority of the funding, but we carry veterans from all over the state. We're trying to get more people in Jackson and the northern part of the state to get involved to help us raise money."
That money goes towards providing these veterans with a life changing experience they won't soon forget. For this upcoming flight, the group will visit various sites like the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery. It's an experience honor flight guardians say these veterans deserve.
"It's their memorial. They're the ones that earned it. It took years for them to get the memorial and we owe our whole freedom right now to the people that fought in World War II. Right now, there's more than 1,000 of them passing away a day, and we're flying as many of them as we can that want to go to Washington," Matthews said.
To find more information on participating or donating to the Mississippi Honor Flight Program, visit http://www.mgchonorflight.org/
WLOX Reporter Steve Phillips and Photojournalist Greg McNease will follow the veterans on their journey to Washington, DC Tuesday. Look for their reports later this week on WLOX News and WLOX.com.