Luncheon for the 5th Southern Illinois Veterans Honor Flight - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Luncheon for the 5th Southern Illinois Veterans Honor Flight

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MARION (WSIL) -- The anticipation is building for 85 veterans who will visit Washington DC on Tuesday for the 5th Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois.

"We've been looking forward to it for a long time, and it's finally here," said Vietnam Veteran Jon Simmons. "We can't hardly wait to go it's going to be a great trip for all of us."

Saturday, all those who'll be on board got to prepare for the big day together. Veterans and volunteers filed into the First Baptist Church in Marion for a luncheon. 

"One of the things that always amazes me at these lunches is how much they want to thank us for doing this for them," said senior pastor, Bob Dickerson. "We're doing this for them because we want to thank them."

Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Southern Illinois Honor Flight agreed saying, "We want them to know that we appreciate them as southern Illinoisans, we appreciate them as Americans, and we appreciate them for serving. Even though this is the fifth one it gets exciting to know that we get to take 85 more heroes to see their memorials."

Tuesday's trip was made possible by Mary Chew. She wrote an $83,000 check to cover the entire cost of this upcoming honor flight.

"I think it's a wonderful experience," said Chew. "A lot of them have not been to Washington before and all of the ones that I have talked to that have gone on the flights before they just light up like a Christmas tree when they talk about their experiences."

While Simmons expects to enjoy the trip to the nation's capital, the Vietnam veteran also has a mission when visiting the war memorials.

"We lost one person in Johnson County in the Vietnam war that was a Kenneth Ford from New Burnside," said Simmons. "And I will be looking for his name."

Rides Mass Transit District will once again offer free trips to the airport from off-site parking lots. You can find that information, here.

News 3 will have live coverage of the Honor Flight return ceremony.

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