Honor Air flight a "career highlight" for weather Airman

  • Published
  • By Ryan Hansen
  • AFWA Public Affairs
A trip to Washington D.C. can be remarkable for almost any member of the U.S. armed forces. But visiting our nation's capital with nearly 100 members of the greatest generation is without a doubt truly inspiring. 

On Sept. 27, Tech. Sgt. Lois Ellingson, a climatological technical information specialist here with the 14th Weather Squadron, had the opportunity to take such a journey as an Honor Air guardian and said it is something she'll never forget. 

"The trip will undoubtedly stand out as a highlight of my career," Sergeant Ellingson said. "I can't imagine a more memorable time than assisting these heroes." 

The Honor Air program flies World War II veterans from across the nation to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II memorial at no cost. Typically the veterans are assisted on each trip by 30 to 50 volunteer guardians. 

Sergeant Ellingson served as an Honor Air guardian to three former Soldiers - Ormond Cole, Phillip Organ Jr. and Travis Robinson - on a flight from Asheville that included 99 World War II veterans. 

"Mr. Cole flew for the first time in his life on this trip," Sergeant Ellingson said. "While he was in World War II he traveled via ship." 

"Mr. Robinson flew as a gunner during World War II in Europe," she added. "He wrote a book about his experiences and brought me a copy. " 

Her duties included making sure each of these veterans had their boarding passes, proper identification, assisting them through security as well as making their trip a memorable experience. 

"I am very thankful that I have been able to participate in the Honor Air program and spend as much time with the World War II veterans as I have," Sergeant Ellingson said. "I have always had a great respect and appreciation for anyone who served their country and guarded the freedoms that we enjoy today." 

Upon arrival in Washington D.C. the veterans were treated to a hero's welcome. Their aircraft was doused with water and several people clapped and cheered for them as they exited the plane. 

"I am glad to see that they are being shown this appreciation that is long overdue," Ellingson said. 

From there the veterans hit the road to see first-hand the memorial that honors their service as well as the more than 400,000 that died and to everyone that supported the war effort from home. 

"Both North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole and World War II veteran and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole visited with the veterans," Sergeant Ellingson said. 

The group also had the opportunity to visit the Arlington National Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Women's Memorial. 

"The World War II veterans gave so much of themselves in order to guard the freedoms that we enjoy today," Sergeant Ellingson said. "This is one great way of letting them know that we appreciate them and what they have done." 

The veterans then returned to Asheville where a local business provided a cookout for them and their families. 

"The airport terminal was filled with hundreds of people, possibly as many as a thousand, cheering and clapping for the veterans," Sergeant Ellingson said. "There were so many people there that they overflowed outside onto the sidewalks." 

The Honor Air program is something that started out as a small, regional idea and has since grown into a nationwide program. Almost every weekend across the country an Honor Air flight takes a group of American heroes to the capital to see their memorial and Sergeant Ellingson encourages anyone that has the opportunity to take part in the program to do so. 

"Honor Air is a chance that should not be passed up," she said. "I am proud to have been a part of such a great event."