SPRINGFIELD — The Land of Lincoln Honor Flight program is seeing fewer World War II veterans on its trips to the nation’s capital.
The upcoming flight on Tuesday will include 40 Korean War veterans, 37 Vietnam-era veterans and three WWII veterans, The State Journal-Register reported. Part of the reason for the decline is that most of the WWII veterans who have applied have already gone on a flight.
Their numbers also are declining. A sailor or soldier who was 18 years old in August 1944 would be 91 today.
The privately funded, nonprofit program has taken more than 3,450 veterans to Washington, D.C., where they spend the day visiting war memorials and military sites. The veterans pay nothing. Organizers say the trip is a way to thank the veterans for their service.
“The first 13 flights we flew in 2009 and 2010, they were all World War II veterans,” said Joan Bortolon, president of the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight. “Then, in 2011, we started taking a small number of Korean War veterans.”
The organization’s policy is to put those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and World War II veterans at the top of the waiting list. A World War II veteran who applied this month would be put ahead of a Vietnam veteran who has been on the list for a year or longer.
“For this whole year, there has been no wait time for the World War II veterans,” Bortolon said. “We were able to put one World War II vet on our September flight because there was a cancellation. We had just gotten his application two weeks earlier. It’s been almost immediate. They just have to wait until the next flight.”