The heroes in our midst need our help

Give the greatest generation a great send-off

Recently, the Santa Maria Sun published a cover story by Wendy Thies Sell about the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that escorts World War II veterans to the Washington, D.C., memorial. On May 13, the local Honor Flight chapter escorted a group of Central Coast veterans to see their memorial. While the Honor Flight Network is a national organization, our local chapter is new and still remains relatively unknown.

These tours are made possible solely through donations from local residents. The need could not be more pressing as our veterans age. Another tour is scheduled for the fall, and there are more than 25 local World War II veterans still on the wait list. Some have waited several decades to visit the monuments erected in their honor. Continued donations are needed to make sure they get there.

The cost to send one veteran on an Honor Flight tour is $1,500, which covers transportation, lodging, food, and medical staff. Even the smallest donation can make a difference.

Our Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Jarhead Wine Company have committed to funding Honor Flight trips for 10 local resident veterans of World War II, and we ask our neighbors to join us in the effort. As Honor Flight volunteer Greg McGill put it, “To them, it’s not just some rocks and stones stacked together. It symbolizes what they did for this country, and why they are free.” That is exactly why the Honor Flight Network is so important, and why we should feel called to contribute.

These veterans, commonly referred to as “the greatest generation,” answered the most phenomenal call-up in our nation’s history. The enormity of their courage and sacrifice is unequalled in the modern era. For many, it began on a peaceful Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, and for those who survived, it ended on Aug. 15, 1945. So many locals left home for the blood-soaked shores of Northern Africa and Normandy and the meat grinder in the Pacific. Still more joined the war effort in manufacturing, supply, and transportation. It was a nation engaged in a single common purpose: the life struggle of freedom against tyranny.

 This generation is in its twilight years, and time is precious as our World War II veterans are passing at a rate of more than 600 per day. Most of the veterans on our local Honor Flight waiting list are in their 90s. Simply put, local residents must act now.

“I am absolutely thrilled to pieces!” said World War II veteran Ruth Gwin, 94, of Arroyo Grande, who joined the May tour.

Before she left, she noted, “I keep hoping that I’m going to live long enough to do it.”

How many more veterans can we send on the fall tour? Let’s all rally together as a community to ensure that every surviving Central Coast World War II veteran has a chance to visit his or her memorial.


Adam Firestone is a winemaker and co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Company. He’s also a former Marine Corps captain. Send comments to the executive editor at [email protected].

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