REDMOND — Two dozen Central Oregon veterans got a hero’s welcome over the weekend.

After two years stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic, an Honor Flight took 24 veterans from the Vietnam and Korean wars to the nation’s capital last week to visit memorials, tour museums and meet with Congressman Cliff Bentz.

“A lot of guys said this was a very healing trip,” said Dane Prevatt, the organizer of Honor Flight of Central Oregon.

The group, one of over a hundred local chapters, coordinates free flights and tours for area veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The trips are designed to show veterans the national memorials honoring their service that they might not otherwise be able to visit.

The organization’s last flight was in May 2019, and organizers had to “gamble” a bit by making plans for this September’s flight without knowing if the COVID-19 pandemic would allow them to go until a few weeks in advance. That gamble paid off when the national Honor Flight organization gave the Central Oregon chapter the green light to make the trip.

“It was tough, but those guys, they were awesome. It was exactly what the honor flight should be,” Prevatt said.

One highlight included an early morning visit to the National Archives.

“We got to see the original documents — the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and several original articles,” Prevatt said. “When you join the military, you take an oath to defend the Constitution.”

Other visits included memorials for World War I and II, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall of names.

“It’s pretty heavy, those days. It draws out a lot of emotion,” Prevatt said.

The organization also plans events into the schedule that allow visiting veterans to be prideful of their service. This year, that included a visit to the changing of the guard ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, a meeting with Bentz and an escort by Redmond Police as the party returned to Central Oregon this weekend.

While the organization has been planning flights since 2018, this year’s was the first to fly out of the Redmond Airport. Previous flights have gone from Portland due to the cost of local flights.

That change allowed the group to involve local supporters closer to home, according to Prevatt.

“We had some generous donors, and we wanted to showcase this flight to Central Oregon and all the people that support us,” Prevatt said.

The next flight is tentatively planned for May, depending on interest, funding and the pandemic. More information about how veterans can apply to attend an honor flight, or how community members can support them, is available on the organization’s website at honorflightofcentraloregon.org.

Reporter: 541-617-7814,

zdemars@bendbulletin.com

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