The Honor Flight, a great way to honor veterans for the sacrifice and service they made many years ago, is an opportunity to take them to visit Washington, D.C. war memorials and spend the day with them, reflecting on their past achievements and learning about their military history.
For Capt. Malia M. Hoffmann, logistics readiness officer, 56th Aerial Port Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, this was the perfect chance to bond with her grandfather, Oscar Hoffmann, over his World War II memories.
“I just really felt like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Capt. Hoffmann. “He’s getting up there in age and he doesn’t have much time left. The fact that he and I share the military experience, that history together, is really special to me.”
The Honor Flight took off from Wisconsin, which is where Capt. Hoffmann grew up, at around 6 a.m. with roughly 84 veterans and their dependents. After arriving in the nation’s capital, they boarded a bus to visit the memorials and other sites the city has to offer.
“Our first stop was the World War II Memorial. All the vets got a group picture in front of the fountain there,” Capt. Hoffmann said.
Other stops included the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial Wall and the Air Force Memorial, Capt. Hoffman said.
“They’ve really done a nice job making these memorials,” Oscar Hoffmann said. “They are very impressive.”
At Arlington they observed the changing of the guard and walked through the final resting place for those who have served.
“There is just so much land here, as far as the eye can see, and it is filled with Soldiers,” Oscar Hoffmann said.
Sharing the experience with her grandfather, who enlisted in the Navy during World War II, created life-long memories. Capt. Hoffmann, a prior-enlisted veteran of 13 years, cites her grandfather’s service as one of the reasons she joined the military.
“When I was a little kid I remember always looking at his old Navy stuff, like his dog tags and his uniforms. I always wanted his pea coat when I was little,” said Capt. Hoffmann. “He was kind of protective of that stuff. I just sort of admired that in him and I thought it was a really cool thing to do for your country.”
The Honor Flight was a really unique opportunity for Capt. Hoffmann and her grandfather to spend an entire day together without anyone else in the family around.
“I think the best part of the whole experience for both of us was when we came back to Wisconsin. They had a welcome home after we got off the aircraft and all the local people lined the airport,” she said. “They had boy scouts, girl scouts, and people with signs. I think there were about 1,500 people there. Then they had all the vets march through the crowd with people cheering. I looked at my grandpa while it was happening and I could see him tearing up.”
She said the trip is something that everyone should experience, given the opportunity.
Another moment while there really meant a lot to her and her grandfather.
“There was a young man, probably 12 years old, at the World War II memorial,” said Capt. Hoffmann. “He was taking a picture of my grandpa, and walked up to him and said, ‘Thank you for your service. What branch were you in?’ My grandpa was really taken aback by that. It was really cool to see the generational difference.”
According to Capt. Hoffmann, those in charge of the Honor Flight program stated the reason they do this is to give back to the Veterans who didn’t get a welcome back, in a time when supporting our troops wasn’t popular.
Capt. Hoffmann said the application process for the Honor Flight is definitely worth it. All you have to do is visit http://www.oldgloryhonorflight.org and submit a completed application or contact them at 888-635-9838.
“I get chills talking about it,” she said. “It was a really special experience. It’s kind of hard to put into words what it meant to us.”