Cape Fear Honor Flight to take off again in spring 2021

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Honor Flight is returning to the Wilmington area.

Honor Flight of the Cape Fear Area (HFCFA) honors veterans from World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War by taking them on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments built in their honor. HFCFA also welcomes veterans with terminal illnesses from any era to join as well.

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HFCFA is a 501(c)3 non-profit, officially recognized by the Honor Flight Network in February 2020.

The last flight took off from ILM in April 2011 and the inaugural flight for this chapter is scheduled for April 24, 2021. It will include 75 veterans, 75 guardians who are assigned one veteran to escort for the day, a medical team, and volunteer staff.

“My dad was a Nebraska farm boy who left his high school graduation, went straight to the United States Navy recruiting office and signed up to go into World War II,” Julie Burton said.

Burton’s father, Mike Holm, attended the 2011 trip. She says his highlight was arriving in Washington, D.C.

“He had this huge lipstick kiss still on his cheek. He said, ‘oh there were these women dressed like the Andrews Sisters and they kissed every single veteran and reapplied the lipstick in between so the kiss would last all day,” Burton said. “My dad said ‘that was the best day of my life.’ And since my mom and I were there, he looked at us and he said ‘well plus the day that I got married and the days my children were born.'”

Veteran George “Van” VanVekoven served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, attending the 2010 honor flight.

“The main reason, as a veteran, that I go and do these things is for all the memory lost,” VanVekoven said.

VanVekoven says it was a beautiful day from the start.

“Miss [North] Carolina gave us a hug before we got on the plane,” he said. “That was nice.”

Maybe his favorite part of the day, returning to Wilmington for mail call.

“They gave us a package of thank you letters from the citizens here in Wilmington. I had 70 letters,” VanVekoven said. “That’s nice to see.”

The $100,000 trip is funded by donations and the organization is run entirely by volunteers.

Applications are open on here for veterans, guardians, and volunteers to join the spring 2021 flight.