When the Trauma of War Never Ends
Dec 20, 2018 01:45PM
by michael tummillo | photos by mark swindler
The West family lost their son in Afghanistan in 2010. “He was on his third deployment when the MRAP he was riding in was hit by an IED. All five aboard were killed, included an Army Chaplain, the first Chaplain killed in combat since the Vietnam War.” According to John, “The Permian Basin Honor Flight is a volunteer group of patriot citizens who understand we owe a debt of gratitude to our Veterans who served and sacrificed for us. Our mission, as shown on our website, is to honor our veterans of all eras and, in particular, WWII, Korea and the Vietnam veterans with an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. They visit the memorials built in their honor, bond with other veterans and often begin the process of healing internal wounds they have held inside for a very long time. So many of our Permian Basin’s heroes never had the opportunity to visit Washington and probably never would be able to without the support of the Permian Basin community.”
With our aging veterans passing away, it is imperative we fly as many as possible each year before it’s too late to honor them.
The West’s have been involved with the Permian Basin Honor Flight from the beginning with the support and initial organization from Jack Barnes, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer. West recalled, “Jack was involved with Honor Flights in Amarillo, Lubbock and San Antonio. I was with him at an event in Lubbock for Purple Heart recipients and Gold Star family members when I noticed he knew most everyone there by name. When I asked why we did not have an Honor Flight for the Permian Basin, he said nobody had offered to coordinate it and donate their time. We knew we had to get one started and soon thereafter, The Permian Basin Honor Flight was organized with several local people volunteering their time.”
“Thank them for their service, and let them know you are grateful for the sacrifices they and their families have made and continue to make.” - John
Jack came to the Basin and found the initial group of volunteers and supporters to fund and organize for the initial Honor Flight. Many other Honor Flights go to Washington and return the same day, but we all agreed that was not enough for our Permian Basin heroes. According to John, “All of us on the initial ground team agreed, we must properly honor these heroes by providing a three-day mission where all the memorials are visited, time being allowed to bond, heal and provide these men and women that gave so much to all of us the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Our mission, is to honor our veterans of all eras and, in particular, WWII, Korea and the Vietnam veterans with an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.
So, what are the financial obligations required to serve these veterans? “The veteran incurs no expense,” said John, assuredly. “The flight, hotel, transportation, send-off dinner, clothing, and meals are all included. Costs have increased each year and we anticipate the next flight to cost approximately $280,000. The Permian Basin has been so supportive of the past flights to ensure our veterans receive the benefits of this mission that we continue to volunteer our time and raise funds throughout the year to make it a reality for the next group. With our aging veterans passing away, it is imperative we fly as many as possible each year before it’s too late to honor them. Several local businesses have been huge supporters of the Honor Flight and we encourage the community to look for them and help with their fundraising efforts for the next mission.”
John added, “We receive great support from Congressman Conaway and his staff. They have helped us through the permit process to congregate at the memorials, presented a flag flown over the Capitol to each veteran and perform so many things behind the scenes that nobody ever sees. We cannot thank Congressman Conaway and his staff enough for the support they provide.” Sadly, many veterans do not believe they should be on an Honor Flight because they were never engaged in combat. “Being in combat is not a pre-qualification to participate in the Honor Flight. Anyone, male or female, combat veteran or not, qualifies to be on the flight. We always accept every application we receive and then prioritize them based upon age and health to ensure we honor every veteran at the appropriate time,” West said. As such, all are encouraged to visit the website at www.permianhonorflight.org for more information and the application form. The next flight is scheduled for May 16-18, 2019.
“They visit the memorials built in their honor, bond with other veterans and often begin the process of healing internal wounds they have held inside for a very long time.”
John continued, “There are so many stories these veterans bring back. Some are very personal and are related to service experiences, and others are from a new friend or contact with Veteran Services. All of us come back different, including us non-veterans who volunteer to help them through the mission. We cannot thank the people of the Permian Basin enough for their support to send these brave men and women on an Honor Flight. The volunteer support, financial support, as well as their good wishes are what this is all about.”
Could it be possible for a grateful nation to ever express enough gratitude to the men and women of our Armed Forces, the people who, working together, have succeeded in keeping our shores safe from foreign invasion while freeing people around the globe from the tyranny of oppressive governments? The volunteers who make up the Permian Basin Honor Flight know it is never enough. With only about 1% of our nation serving in the military, giving their time, their service and for many, their all, such as the Gold Star families know, that debt can never be fully repaid.
So many of our Permian Basin’s heroes never had the opportunity to visit Washington and probably never would be able to without the support of the Permian Basin community.”
John encourages everyone to speak with veterans they know from all eras of service. “Thank them for their service, and let them know you are grateful for the sacrifices they and their families have made and continue to make. Encourage the Permian Basin veterans to send in their application today to be on the next mission. Help us raise funds. Send a donation, coordinate a bake sale, attend the send-off event, whatever it takes to send a veteran you know, or someone you just want to say thank you to, on the next mission. Before it is too late for them to go.” †
Veterans on the inaugural flight at the WWII Memorial
You can learn more about the Permian Basin Honor Flight and find applications at their website, www.permianhonorflight.org
The Permian Basin Honor Flight is an authorized hub of the Honor Flight Network and is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)3 organization. EIN 47-22155440.