ORLANDO, Fla. – Twenty-six veterans flew from Orlando to Washington, D.C. early Saturday morning for a one-day trip to visit war memorials at the nation’s capital. The Honor Flight Network coordinates the all-expenses-paid trip for veterans, prioritizing those who served in World War II, the Korean and/or Vietnam Wars.

Honor Flights take off from 129 different hubs around the country, including the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Army veteran Donna Calkins said she’s excited this year’s trip is finally happening, after previously being canceled twice due to the pandemic.

“We were supposed to go two years ago,” Calkins said. “I’m looking forward to it. I really am.”

Calkins said she’s only been to Washington, D.C. once before, in 1967, before all the war memorials were there. Now, Calkins said she’s most excited to visit the Vietnam War Memorial, and see the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“It’s nice, because we get together with other veterans that we’ve never met,” Calkins said. “We learn about where they’ve been, the type of stuff they’ve done in service. It’s very interesting.”

Retired Army Colonel Landy Dunham co-chairs the board of directors for the Honor Flight’s Central Florida hub. He says the Honor Flight is an incredible opportunity for veterans to see the memorials erected in their honor.

“These men and women are going to get to see how great our nation truly is,” Dunham said.

He encouraged Central Floridians to support the veterans by welcoming them back to MCO upon their return late tonight. 

The Honor Flight is scheduled to arrive back in Orlando shortly before midnight Saturday. Anyone who wants to cheer on the returning vets should come to the USO (United Service Organizations) lounge area on the first floor of MCO’s Terminal A. Masks are required. Flags and signs are encouraged.