During the second weekend of September (12-13), five individuals with connections to the BYU College of Nursing participated in an Utah Honor Flight experience.
Funded through donations, the non-profit Honor Flight Network consists of over 127 hubs in 41 states. This flight was also partially-sponsored by Millard County (Fillmore, Utah) that chartered an airplane to send veterans to Washington D.C. in commemoration of their sacrifice and in honor of their service to our country; on average each flight takes 26 veterans.
Volunteers that accompany veterans are called “guardians” and help in flight if needed, and assist during tours (pushing wheelchairs, walking support, 24-hour supervision, etc.). Those serving from the college, however, were not guardians but were part of the nursing staff that oversaw the medical needs of the participants. They include associate dean and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad, associate teaching professor Ron Ulberg—both veterans themselves, Jason Egan (BS ’13), Marthea Hale (BS ’13), and Petr Ruda (BS ’09 and current master’s student)—all three participated in the college’s veteran section of the clinical practicum for Public and Global Health Nursing course which was established by Blad and Ulberg to assist nursing students to learn how to care for and support veterans.
For Egan, serving our nation’s veterans through Honor Flight was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Walking with our veterans through the airports and through Washington, D.C. was a life-changing experience,” says Egan. “When you have strangers, many of them from other countries, going out of their way to stop and thank our Veterans for their service, it makes you stop and think of just how truly blessed we are because of their sacrifice.”
Currently the Honor Flight transports veterans of World War II to visit and reflect at the National World War II Memorial, and any veteran with a terminal illness to see the memorial of the war they fought in.
“In the near future, only memories of these kinds of experiences with WWII Veterans will be all that remain of the greatest generation in American history,” says Egan. “When you stop and think about that, my kids will be relying on me to teach them about our WWII Veterans and why they were so important to this country, and the world. I hope that through all my experiences with these veterans, my kids will grow up knowing and appreciating their service and sacrifice as much as I do, if not more.”
While in D.C., the group also visited Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial, and other sites along the National Mall. This is done at no cost to the veterans. Airfare, lodging, meals, and ground transportation cost are covered by generous donations to the program by private and corporate donors; each guardian personally paid $900 to participate.
To make a donation to this program, please visit http://www.utahhonorflight.org/donate.html.
The first honor flight took place in May 2005, when six small planes flew 12 veterans to Washington. By 2013 more than 98,500 veterans have traveled to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial. Utah Honor Flight was established last year and took its first group of veterans in October; this was its third mission.