Honor Flight: 2020 calls for another way

Are you familiar with Honor Flight? Honor Flight gives veterans the experience of being celebrated. Typical Honor Flight programs feature a day-long trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials and be honored, all expenses paid.

Unfortunately, all Honor Flight activities have been postponed through at least June 30, 2020, due to the pandemic.

Honor Flight Tallahassee was supposed to be today. Since the actual flight can’t take place, the organization, its alumni and supporters like me are participating in a virtual Honor Flight.

Since I’m using this as my Five Minute Friday response, with the prompt being “another,” I’m going to share a five-minute free write first. After that, I’ll share some more memories of my involvement with Honor Flight so far.

ANOTHER

There will be another Honor Flight Tallahassee that involves an airplane, physical contact as hands are shaken, hugs dispensed and physical aid assisted to disabled vets.

It won’t be the April 18, 2020, Honor Flight though.

I can’t remember when I learned about Honor Flight, but it didn’t take long before I set my sights on being a guardian (one of the volunteers assigned to spend the day with one of the honored veterans and help them have the best experience possible (and stay physically safe)).

I just know it was long enough ago that every year that goes by without reaching this goal creates a little more of a sadness that it may never come to fruition.

What I have to remind myself is that I need to see this, not from the lens of what I am not getting to do, but from the perspective that it is a gift to the Honor Flight program that there are so many willing and capable volunteers who also have the means to pay the $500 fee.

I believe in self-examination and the need to ask ourselves hard questions, and Honor Flight is one of those things that leads me to ask myself some deeper questions.

Am I wanting to do this for the right reasons? It’s easy to think about how great this experience would look on social media, but would I do it even if no picture were ever posted, no status ever updated? (The answer is yes, but I’ve been in the microinfluencer world long enough that almost every opportunity is, to be honest, weighed against its social media potential.)

Can I find a way to be supportive without ever going myself? And the answer to this is yes, too, but that doesn’t mean I won’t grieve the loss of the opportunity to experience it in person.

***end of five minutes***

Honor Flight Memories

I have applied once (last year) and was not accepted as a Guardian, and this year’s application doesn’t matter since the trip was delayed. The likelihood that I’ll get to go in the future is uncertain — obviously the number of WWII vets diminishes every year as they age and pass away. There’s also a $500 fee if you get accepted — some years that’s easier to do than others (but if I ever get accepted, I fully intend to scrape it together!). Meaning — I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity.

For now, though, here are some posts and images over the past few years from my involvement with Honor Flight.

In 2017, my lovely friend Becky put together a banquet to raise money for Honor Flight, along with the Chiles High Student Government Association. I shared information about the event in this blog post.

In this blog post, I wrote about volunteering at Brewfest. One of the beneficiaries of the funds raised was Honor Flight Tallahassee.

In this blog post, I wrote about a story in the Reserve Officers Association newsletter from SmartBrief that discussed an all-women Honor Flight. This one is scheduled for October 7, so here’s hoping it can still happen!

I talk about Honor Flight Tallahassee in this #GarnetGoldAndGood video I created as part of a Toastmasters exercise where I gave an ignite speech. (The Honor Flight part starts at 3:44 if you don’t want to have to see Jameis and the crab legs LOL.)

In 2015, Honor Flight veterans were honored as the VIPs at a July 4 5K here in Tallahassee.

Honor Flight: 2020 calls for another way

My friend, Laura, and I went together to the “welcome home” portion of Honor Flight Tallahassee in 2016. What a great memory.

Honor Flight: 2020 calls for another way

How the virtual Honor Flight is working

Here are things you can do if you want to be involved today (although many of these actions can extend beyond today).

Like and follow the Honor Flight Tallahassee Facebook page. On April 18, 2020, the page will share the flight day schedule virtually. Pictures will be posted all day around the time the group would normally arrive at each monument, highlighting special moments from the 2013-2019 flights.

If you have an Honor Flight Tallahassee t-shirt, wear it on April 18 (even though you’ll probably be at home!) Post a selfie in your Honor Flight shirt with an encouraging message for our veterans! (I haven’t gotten to that part yet, but I’ll drop the picture in later).

Share your favorite Honor Flight Tallahassee and veteran memories, pictures or videos throughout the day. Post them on the Honor Flight Tallahassee Facebook page or tag them on your own page. Use the hashtag #HonorFlightTLH so they can capture your posts across all social media channels.

Honor Flight prioritizes veterans from World War II, Korean War and Vietnam wars for flights, but the Virtual Honor Flight is for everyone! Share a picture or tribute to your favorite veteran(s) no matter when or where they served (or are currently serving) our country. Be sure to use #HonorFlightTLH for these posts, too!

Reach out today. Many veterans do not use Facebook. In this time of social distancing, it is more important than ever to stay connected. If you know a veteran, give them a call! Ask them to share memories and stories from their extraordinary lives and service. Or read them a few posts and comments from the Virtual Honor Flight to remind them how much we care.

Thank a veteran. Write a note of gratitude or ask your young family members to draw a picture. Tallahassee Honor Flight will make sure your notes are given to a veteran who goes on the next flight. Drop your notes in the mail to: Honor Flight Tallahassee, PO Box 12033, Tallahassee, FL 32317

Know any WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans who haven’t been on a flight? Talk to them about Honor Flight and encourage them to apply for the next flight. Applications are available here.

Tallahassee Honor Flight is watching the public health situation closely and still hopes to host a flight in 2020. They rely on the generosity of our community to raise money, so please consider a donation (this is a link to my friend Becky’s fundraiser) or even hosting a Facebook Fundraiser if you feel so inclined.

(Note, I’ve adapted the suggestions here from information on the Honor Flight Tallahassee Facebook page.)

Honor Flight: 2020 calls for another way

In closing

I’d be lying if I said I have made peace with the idea that I won’t have another chance at going on an Honor Flight as a guardian. For today, though, I’ll settle for hoping I can encourage another person to get interested themselves in this deserving cause.

Honor Flight: 2020 calls for another way

Volunteering for VIPs at Brewfest

This post is made possible by support from the Reward Volunteers Program. All opinions are my own.

VIPs are “very important people,” right?

At the Tallahassee Brewfest sponsored by Sunrise Rotary, VIPs got special treatment: their own designated entrance queue, special food, extra swag, and the all-important “special VIP glass.” No boring nondescript beer-tasting cups for them!

Reward Volunteers Program

What Volunteers Do

I had many tasks throughout my day as a volunteer at the Tallahassee Brewfest, starting with unboxing those VIP glasses.

As the VIPs arrived, we welcomed each one, got them set up with their goodies, and wished them a happy event.

After the VIPs were processed, we had other jobs to do. We helped answer questions, relieved other volunteers, kept the venue tidy, and in general promoted a happy vibe among the 1200 Brewfest attendees.

After the event, we ushered participants out, then it was breakdown time. Our volunteer duties during breakdown time fell under the “if you see it, and it needs to be done, do it” category. Carting boxes of unused supplies out. Consolidating uneaten food and getting it to a new home. Throwing away bags of trash. Dismantling tables. More trash.

How Volunteering Helps

The Sunrise Rotary Tallahassee Brewfest is the club’s largest event of the year. Twenty-one organizations benefit. 21!

Each of these organizations is oh-so-worthy, but there is something Rotary does that makes it important for me, even though I am not a Rotary member, to pitch in at Brewfest: Rotary International is one of five partners in the Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership pursuing the sole goal of eradicating polio worldwide. I have been a Shot at Life champion for five years, advocating for children worldwide to have access to immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases including polio. We’re all on the same team in that regard, so it’s important for me to chip in.

Among the 21 causes Brewfest helps directly, several of them intersect with my interests and affiliations. I may not be able to volunteer at each one regularly, but helping at Brewfest indirectly gives them a boost. The Alzheimer’s Project, for example, provided several hours of respite care weekly so I could run errands (or sleep, or work) without worrying about my father-in-law. Honor Flight, a favorite cause, takes WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., every year to be honored. 211 Big Bend helps people experiencing suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues in addition to compiling resources for community services. More importantly to me, it’s where I received mental health training and experience that has served me for decades, long after I stopped answering the phones for the counseling hotline and the Florida AIDS Hotline.

What Volunteers Get

The list of rewards for volunteering at Brewfest flows as easily as the taps did that night (until time to close when we friendly volunteers showed everyone the exit)!

In addition to helping all the great causes I listed above, we get to see a broad cross-section of our community and socialize while we work.

We even got beer breaks – something you can’t say of every volunteer gig.

Reward Volunteers Program

I also accrued Reward Volunteers points. RV is a program sponsored by the Cabot Cooperative, makers of the World’s Best Cheddar and other dairy products. I have been a member for more than a year. Here’s what Reward Volunteers is all about:

  • It’s a site where you can log your volunteer hours and keep track of the ways you make the world a better place
  • Participating organizations (and individuals) can win prizes for logging their hours
  • Reward Volunteers lets you search for volunteering opportunities in your area
  • The site gives gives Organizations and Volunteers a free way to track volunteer activity.

Learn more about Reward Volunteers from this Facebook Live I did with Cabot volunteer Amanda Freund.

But here’s one thing no bullet point list can adequately capture: the fun factor. It was rainy. Our boxes of VIP glasses got soggy. Guests arrived a bit skeptical about how day would turn out. We all had a great time.

Who’s the Real VIP?

There were other VIPs that got something out of the day besides the people we greeted when the event began. The other very important people are the ones served by the 21 incredible agencies that Brewfest supports.

The beer taps may have had to stop at the end of the event, but the event’s good results will flow all year long.

Reward Volunteers Program