MARION -- After the cancellation of Honor Flights during the 2020 pandemic, the Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois will be flying again next week.
"Community support for the previous Honor Flight Welcome Home events has been overwhelming," said Deborah Hogg, Welcome Home organizer. "There is no better way to celebrate our Veterans and honor them than by giving them a heroes welcome home."
Hogg and her 10-member committee are hoping that people across the area will gather at Veterans Airport on Sept. 28 to unite in giving the veterans a "hero's welcome."
This year's event will be just a bit different.
In effort to keep everyone safe, the celebration will be held outside at the front airport entrance. If social distancing cannot be maintained outside, guests are asked to wear face masks.
Those attending are welcome to bring lawn chairs.
The event is set to begin at 5 p.m. with several food trucks including M.A. Filipino Cuisine, Easy Street Food Truck, B-Rad Bagels, and Deep South, who have all donated to Honor Flight of Southern Illinois.
The service will last until all veterans have walked the "Freedom Path" along the front entrance.
"While the public is enjoying their dinner, they can also enjoy local entertainment," said Jared Garrison, a member of the Welcome Home Planning Committee. "The entertainment line‐up for the evening includes classical guitarist Skip Cutting and the JOY Singers from Marion First Baptist Church."
The Welcome Home Ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. with emcee George Davis and Matt Throgmorton of Byassee Music and Sound will be singing the national anthem.
Due to limited parking on airport grounds, the planning committee encourages the general public to utilize the free transportation buses from off site parking locations.
"Rides Mass Transit is happy to provide transportation service from three lots including Sam's Club and Cornerstone Church as well as Community of Faith Church with buses continuously running between locations to ensure everyone has easy access to the event." said Jeffery Drake with Rides Mass Transit.
Buses will run approximately every 20 minutes beginning at 5 p.m. All passengers will need to wear a mask while riding.
Anyone with questions or needing assistance upon arrival at the airport, they can ask any of the volunteers stationed at various points throughout the airport grounds. All volunteers will be wearing bright orange lanyards.
"We hope everyone will come out to the airport to help us welcome home our Veterans. We want the Veterans to witness a sea of red, white and blue when they depart the plane," stated the planning committee.
Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois is implemented solely by volunteers with 96.5 cents of every dollar donated going straight to the Veterans.
For additional information or to apply to become a Guardian, Volunteer or Honor Flight Veteran, visit the website www. veteranshonorflight.org.