"It's way, way overdue:" Honor Flight begins accepting applications from veterans of Vietnam War

MILWAUKEE -- Since 2008, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program has flown 4,907 local WWII and Korean War veterans to Washington, DC to see their memorials. The organization announced that beginning Monday, May 1st, the organization will begin accepting applications from veterans of the Vietnam War.

"That blasted Vietnam War has haunted us for so long because we were not welcomed home and while we can understand what happened in our country at that given time, it's still is very, very difficult," said Joe Campbell, Vietnam War veteran.

Joe Campbell

The announcement means tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans in southeastern Wisconsin can also get a day of recognition they so deserve.

"I think it's going to be so healing and so moving for so many veterans," said Mike Orban, Vietnam War veteran.

Orban served in Vietnam as an infantry soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division.

"When we all left Vietnam, we just left the war and all the experiences; those who died there, and when we came home, for a lot of us, we never had a connection to them anymore or any interaction with them, so this is a good chance to go back and hopefully heal and close some of those thoughts that have been with us all this time," Orban said.

In the past, the Honor Flight has been reserved for WWII veterans and later opened to Korean War vets. Now, Vietnam vets can apply.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

"We feel like our wait list has really dwindled and we've addressed most of those who have chosen to fly with us so it just makes sense that we move on to the next conflict," said Paula Nelson, president of Stars and Strips Honor Flight.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

No war is easy. Time can sometimes heal, but for many, the opportunity to pay a special tribute to the fallen is worth the emotional pain.

"If we look at it properly, I think it's very healing," said Orban.

When they return, they'll get that proper welcome home.

"It's way, way overdue. It's way, way overdue," Orban said.

An online application will be available at starsandstripeshonorflight.org beginning Monday, May 1st. WWII and Korean War veterans who apply, whether online or with a paper application, will still receive priority. However, the organization expects to begin flying large numbers of Vietnam veterans beginning with the September 16th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Flights are also scheduled for Saturday, October 14th and Saturday, November 4th.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

A Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is a one day, all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for a WWII veteran, Korean War veteran, Vietnam War veteran or terminally ill veteran of any conflict to see the memorials that were built in their honor and to experience a full day of honor and appreciation for their service. The flights originate from and return to Mitchell International Airport.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is an all-volunteer, 501(c)3 organization, and the flights are funded completely by individual and corporate donations. Approximately $.98 of every donated dollar goes directly to flying veterans.

All chaperones must apply at the same time as their vet.