Honoring Our Nations Heroes

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan

Each day, the number of our living WWII, Korean and Vietnam War Veterans dwindles; many of whom may have never been able to make a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials honoring their service within the United States military. That’s why it is the mission of the Space Coast Honor Flight to ensure our Nation’s veterans are given the opportunity to visit their war memorials in Washington, D.C., free of charge.

Bill Welser, a retired Air Force Lieutenant General and command pilot with over 3,500 hours in aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy, C-141 Starlifter, KC-10 Extender, T-1 Jayhawk and more than 20 other aircraft, has been the president of the SCHF program for eight years. In just under a decade, Welser successfully orchestrated 52 honor flights, ultimately serving 1,350 of our Nation’s Veterans.

He explained he originally got involved as a way to honor people like his father, a WWII veteran.

“As a retiree, I was looking for a way to honor our veterans,” Welser said. “I’ve taken my father and gone as a Guardian but I wanted to get more involved because it’s such a great program.”

Welser and his team of volunteers have spent thousands of hours ensuring each trip is a success. Since the inception of SCHF in 2010, the nonprofit has flown over 1,300 WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to visit their memorials on the all-expense-paid day trip to D.C.

“When I returned home, people were throwing rocks at the bus we were in,” Welser said. “We had to change out of our uniforms at the airport. There were people outside protesting, holding signs calling us baby killers. That was our Vietnam Welcome Home,” he explained.

Seeing people welcoming and cheering home veterans was a foreign concept Welser added. He explained that what he experienced was the standard for most returning Vietnam Veterans.

Welser explained how the Korean War was received as an unknown war where the Veterans simply came home with hardly any to no recognition at all. The Korean War ended in a stalemate, with no clear victor.

“You’ll see the people on these Honor Flight trips that haven’t been recognized properly when they returned home,” he said. “The American public’s response to these trips and our Veterans is remarkable.”

According to the SCHF website, each trip includes 25 Veterans, 25 Guardian Escorts, staff members and a medical representative. SCHF is supported by donations from individuals, businesses and grants. The support staff for the organization, to include Welser, is 100% comprised of volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time to ensure every trip is successful in every aspect.

If you or someone you know is a WWII, Korean War, Vietnam critically ill veteran or veteran of any recent conflict, more information can be found at www.spacecoasthonorflight.org or requested by phone, 1-888-750-2522 or email info@spacecoasthonorflight.org.