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Since 2011, Ark has helped the National Trail Parks & Recreation District build three memorials to honor veterans. One memorial honors the 63 Clark County veterans that died in Vietnam. The memorials have all been paid for by veterans and veteran’s families, Ark said.
“I think about all the guys who lost their lives, friends of mine,” Ark said. “I do want to make the most of my survival by helping veterans.”
Ark was on the Honor Flight National Board for a few years and helped organize Honor Flight trips. This trip was “extra special” because his son came with him and he experienced the trip with a group of veterans from his Purple Heart Chapter.
“He or she is king or queen for the day. They are treated like royalty,” Ark said when describing the trip. “It’s quite an experience.”
The Honor Flight one-day trip is free for all veterans, including ones that did not participate in combat. Veterans are allowed to bring a guardian.
For veterans that do not want to fly or can not fly, a three day RV trip is available.
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On the trip, Ark saw several war memorials, Arlington Park, the United States Capitol Building, and the changing of guards.
Honor Flight sends veterans to see the war memorials because they were built in their honor and they deserve to see them, Bailey said.
Ark left the Dayton airport at 3:30 a.m. and returned home to a “huge welcome” at 10 p.m.
“About 2,000 people welcomed the veterans home,” Bailey said. “This is the first time most of them have ever been thanked for their service.”
On the veteran’s ride home, they receive “mail call.” This is where veterans receive letters from home written by their wives, grandchildren, friends, and other veterans.
“I think it allows veterans to not only mingle with other veterans that have seen and heard similar experiences and maybe identical experiences in some cases. But it allows them to finally get some stuff out of their systems,” Ark said. “To me, that camaraderie, fellowship that they have with one another and their guardians - that’s the most beneficial.”
In 2018, Honor Flight flew 21,189 veterans and 19,383 guardians to Washington D.C. 38,054 veterans are on a waiting list.
Many veterans have told Bailey that the trip means the world to them, but he said one specifically said, “’This was the best day of his life.’”
Veterans interested in the Honor Flight trip, can apply by filling out an online application at www.honorflight.org/applications/. For more information, call 614-558-6220.
By the numbers:
130: Honor Flight hubs
21,189: Veterans flown in 2018
19,383: Guardians flown in 2018
38,054: Veterans on a waiting list
What is open and closed in Springfield on Veterans Day:
Banks: PNC Bank, Keybank, Citizens National Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Security National Bank and Huntington Bank locations are closed.
City Departments: All Springfield City offices are closed.
County Departments: All Clark County offices are closed.
Courts: All local, state and federal courts are closed.
Federal Offices: All federal offices are closed.
Libraries: The Clark County Public Library is open.
Mailing Services: The United States Postal Service offices are closed. FedEx and UPS locations are open.