Tag Archives: Honor Flight

Utah Honor Flight: A Special Chance to Give Back


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Students posing in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of Landon.

By Corbin Smith

“Everyone has a story, and if you’re willing to hear it, it’ll bring you to your knees.”


That is a quote that teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad shared with the 18 students that accompanied him on the Utah Honor Flight last May. He spoke of the 50 veterans that traveled with our nursing students to Washington DC to participate in truly a life-changing experience.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization founded in 2005. Since then it has grown into a nationwide organization, with chapters operating in 45 states in the US. The Utah chapter was formed in 2010, and starting in 2013 Utah began doing flights regularly. According to their website in 2018, Honor Flight has served 21,189 veterans while serving 222,133 nationwide.

Honor Flight allows war veterans to visit war memorials in Washington DC. During the trip, veterans are taken to various historical and memorial sites. They get a special tour of the Arlington National Cemetery and visit Fort McHenry. The highlight of the trip, though, is the Heroes Banquet, done to spotlight and honor the services and bravery of our veterans.

Today, thanks to the efforts of Blad, BYU and Utah Honor Flight have partnered to allow nursing students to act as “guardians”, or chaperones, to the veterans who participate in this trip. This has become an opportunity students can use for their clinical practicum of the public and global health nursing course in the spring.

This all started in 2014 when Dr. Blad realized that a connection could be made from the course he teaches on caring for the veteran patient and Utah Honor Flight. Blad felt strongly that allowing students to participate in the Honor Flight would be the best learning experience for each of them. “Instead of teaching our students out of a textbook, we have the veterans live and in color, teaching the students about themselves and telling stories from their war experiences and how it affects their lives. That is what really makes a difference,” he explains.

Blad was right. The Honor Flight impacted the lives of every student that attended. Each student was able to hear understand a little bit better the life of the veteran they served, and not one of them left without a touched heart.

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Landon (middle) says the Honor Flight changed her whole attitude on life! Photo courtesy of Landon.

Fifth-semester student, Amanda Landon, was one who was greatly impacted by the Honor Flight. She says, “My experience with the Honor Flight was in a word: incredible. It was amazing for me to see the degree to which they are gracious, humble, and loving. I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back in a small way to those who gave so much.”

Meanwhile, the Honor Flight was particularly special for Hannah Hoffman, another 5th semester student here at the college. For Hoffman, it was special because she was able to take her grandfather to the Honor Flight. “The coolest part for me about the Honor Flight was that I developed such a strong relationship with my grandpa. I saw another side of him I had never seen,” she says.

While spending time with her grandpa during the Honor Flight, Hoffman feels like she learned two major lessons that will help her progress as a nurse. First, that nursing is more than just caring about the physical health of your patients. She says, “The reality is that there was a lot to focus on with our veterans. There are spiritual, mental and emotional needs to meet on the trip. The priority was create a feeling of understanding and one of safety, where he could feel safe to share things that maybe he wouldn’t share with someone else, and know that he would be validated and that he would receive empathy and compassion.” That is the epitome of the Healer’s art!

Second, learn the stories of your patients. Not judging your patients is an important aspect of nursing and will affect greatly if they trust you or not. Hoffman explains, “The Honor Flight helped me see how to develop a strong nurse to patient relationship. It is easy to see the stubborn side of veterans, but during the Honor Flight I was able to see who they really are.”

The Honor Flight is an impactful experience each year for all who attend, especially for Blad, the bridge between the BYU College of Nursing and Utah Honor Flight. “I am constantly amazed by these men and women,” Blad says, “They help you gain a new perspective on life every year.”

Want to learn more about the Honor Flight, in only 60 seconds? Check out this video: https://youtu.be/KPHd4Tud-1c

Honoring Veterans on a Utah Honor Flight

By Mindy Longhurst


An image of Sandra Rogers and Mary Williams with their veterans before leaving for Washington D.C. Image courtesy of Rogers.

Once a year, the College of Nursing sponsors a Utah Honor Flight. An Honor Flight is meant to recognize and show appreciation for those who have served and sacrificed for our country. During this experience, these veterans are each assigned a guardian to take care of them. The veterans fly from Salt Lake City to Washington D.C. where they are able to look at many historical and memorial sites for the wars they served in.

This year, we had nursing students and faculty members participate in the Utah Honor Flight. Also in attendance was Sandra Rogers, the International Vice President for Brigham Young University. Rogers is the former dean and nursing alum of the College of Nursing.

Both Rogers and associate professor Dr. Mary Williams had uncles who made the ultimate sacrifice giving their lives in the service of their country. Because of these experiences, both were raised in homes where gratitude and appreciation for those who have served our country were readily expressed.


An image of Rogers with others at the WWII Memorial at the Washington Mall. Image courtesy of Rogers.

Sandra Rogers’ experience

During their time in Washington D.C., the veterans and guardians were able to visit many historical and memorial sites. They first visited the National Archives Museum, where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are showcased. Rogers explains how impactful this was for the veterans, “I did not anticipate how much the veterans appreciated seeing the archives. It was like it was in their patriotic DNA, it was part of one of the reasons why they had served. These were the documents that set out the freedoms that they were defending and what they were fighting for.”

Following the National Archives Museum, they attended the WWII Memorial where Congressional Contingency from Utah were there to greet the veterans and express their appreciation. While in Washington D.C., they also visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key penned “The Star Spangled Banner” and they were able to attend the Arlington National Cemetery.

Throughout her experience with the Utah Honor Flight, Sandra Rogers was constantly amazed by the organization and efficiency of the program. There was always someone to help with food and travel. She was impressed with teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad who organizes the event for the College of Nursing global and public health nursing course practicum. Being a veteran himself, Blad has a love for those who have served this country, and that was evident throughout the entire experience.

The ultimate lesson that Rogers was able to learn was about the importance of gratitude. It surprised her during the Honor Flight experience how complete strangers would come up to the veterans and individually thank them for the service and sacrifice they made for this country. She was amazed by the crowds of people in the airports with signs and banners cheering for the veterans. She says, “I looked at these veterans on the bus and I thought about the families that worried about them, the families that prayed for them while they were gone, the families that hoped heaven would watch over their loved one while they were providing this service.” After this experience, she now says that she is more motivated to approach a veteran and ask where they served and to give thanks for their service.


Image of Williams and Rogers and their veterans at the Korean War Memorial at the Washington Mall. Image courtesy of Rogers.

Mary Williams’ experience

Williams loved the experience that she had during the Utah Honor flight! A moment that she remembers clearly is when the veteran for whom she was guardian visited the Lincoln Memorial. Her veteran served in the Korean War and is an artist. He really wanted to observe the artistic beauty of the Lincoln Memorial. She says of this experience, “At the Lincoln Memorial, my veteran was so desirous to view the Lincoln Memorial. That day the elevators were broken, but he was determined to climb the many steps to the top so he could experience the memorial and he did so with great energy.”

Williams expressed how life-changing this experience was for her. She was able to take the time to learn about their war stories and to learn about their lives. She says, “My life has been changed forever. I was again reminded that freedom is not free. The price for freedom is paid with blood, tears, loss of life and sacrifice of families. I was indeed overwhelmed with gratitude for the men and women who sacrifice so much. Truly, this experience was one of the highlights of my life with love of country and freedom etched on my heart forever and gratitude for those who keep it free never to be forgotten.”



A Veteran Relies on His Heavenly Friend

BYU College of Nursing sponsors a Utah Honor Flight experience each spring for local veterans. Participants travel to Washington, D.C. for three days to visit war memorials built to honor their service in World War II or the Korean War. Nursing students join the trip to practice the knowledge they have learned in clinical practicums regarding veteran support and care.


Russell Hansen and Jeff Peery

I had the privilege to accompany my neighbor last year as his guardian. Russell Payzant was 96 years-old and served in WWII as a mechanic in the United States Navy. He worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station in California until discharged. His total time in the military was 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days.

As his guardian, I was responsible for his well-being and looked after his healthcare and medical needs. The first night we were together, he could not find the medicine for his glaucoma prevention. We searched every inch of his suitcase twice but could not find it. When asked if the drops were needed, he told me, yes, or he’d go blind.

Now the panic began (I did not want to be the first Honor Flight guardian to harm their veteran).

I called the flight medic for our group to ask her opinion. Apparently, the drops were needed. Since it was a prescription, we would not be able to get a replacement that night, and we must find them.

I turned to Russ for guidance. Ironically, I was one of his church leaders at the time, yet I felt no inspiration for the situation. The thing that impressed me most about him was his faith in God. Without hesitation, he said he’d ask his heavenly friend for help.


Russ spent several minutes in prayer, on his knees, pleading with the Lord to allow him to find the eyedrops. I did the same, but he had a true connection to heaven. Moments later he got up, went to his suitcase and looked again. In a “secret” pocket was his medicine, placed there securely by his loving wife (who didn’t want it to get lost).

I looked repeatedly, but he had searched—searched for support from his Father.

Our time together was amazing! The rest of the weekend went well and we learned a lot about each other. I grew to appreciate him in so many ways.

Before our trip, he considered himself ‘only a mechanic in the war.’ However, after being greeted by cheering crowds in airports, at war memorials, and during a welcome home gathering with the National Guard, Russ considered himself a war hero. And for the next nine months, he had many stories to share with family and friends about his travels.


Russ giving President Franklin D. Roosevelt some advice!

My friend passed away February 19, 2017; I am fortunate to have known this man.

Honor Flight: In-Flight Scare

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight, Part Three

The second memorable incident on the plane was an in-flight medical concern. Every Honor Flight recruits two medics to serve as in-flight medical staff. The medics for this trip were Kathy Thatcher (AS ’82, BS ’89) and Dr. Blad.

About 20 minutes into the flight, one of the guardians turned to the person near her and reported that she did not feel well—then suddenly passed out. The individual sitting next to her happened to be BYU College of Nursing dean and professor Patricia Ravert (AS ’74, BS ’75, MS ’94), who was also participating in the trip as a guardian.

Ravert summoned Blad, and with his help they were able to lay the woman down in the aisle of the commercial airplane. Blad quickly gathered a collection of medical devices to check the patient’s oxygen, heart-rate, and blood-pressure levels—which all appeared normal. But each time the patient tried to sit up, she would pass out again.

The flight attendants used a radio headset to communicate directly to a physician on the ground. Information was relayed back and forth until the situation improved and the woman regained her strength. She spent the remainder of the flight reclined across two seats, with her feet elevated on Blad’s lap.

“The roar of the airplane’s engine made it quite difficult to hear an accurate heartbeat,” Blad says. “It was also a challenge that I could not speak directly to the doctor—only airline employees could relay information. I had the power to divert the flight to seek emergency care but not to share details of my assessment.”

Some would say this was the safest flight in history given the fact that there were four BYU College of Nursing faculty, two nursing alumni, and 13 nursing students onboard—all trained and ready to assist if needed.

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

Honor Flight: Mail Call

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight, Part Two

On the morning of Thursday, May 28, a group of 50 veterans, some family members, and 50 guardians (dedicated staff members each assigned to a veteran) gathered at the Utah State Fair Park for a sendoff. A U.S. Army band greeted them, and Brigadier General Kenneth L. Gammon addressed the assembly before the group boarded buses and went to the airport, escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah—a diverse group of riders who have an unwavering respect for veterans.

Military escorts provided by the Utah Army National Guard, as well as a group of bagpipe players from the Utah Pipe Band, accompanied the group to the gate. While traveling through the airport the veterans—from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War—received standing ovations and cheers along with occasional salutes and handshakes from complete strangers. These strangers (who were all busy travelers themselves) took the opportunity to show respect to this group of four women and 46 men and to offer their unsolicited appreciation.

This public show of gratitude was repeated in the Baltimore Airport and at all places the group visited during their tour. Many people value patriotism and the freedoms they experience each day due to the efforts of these honored veterans.

11148591_421411598050246_6896323674356103257_nTwo unique experiences occurred during the flight. The first event involved the tradition of an in-flight mail call—the Honor Flight version of the American military postal system where veterans receive letters from home. Prior to the trip each guardian worked with the veteran’s family members to gather and obtain notes and letters from loved ones; they also received messages and cards from local elementary-school students whose principal wanted to show her school’s support.

Imagine unexpectedly being handed a large envelope that contains a collection of personal messages from your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, and friends. For most of the veterans, the flood of emotions and recollections was great, and they were unable to hold back tears. Passengers on the flight who were not associated with the group also found themselves teary-eyed and touched with the kindness reflected in the letters and drawings.

While these messages were unique to each individual, many contained the same sentiments, which could be heard as they were read aloud in the cabin:

“I send my respect, admiration, and honor . . . ”

“You are my hero!”

“It is a privilege to be your son.”

“I am proud to be your daughter.”

“I value your leadership and strength.”

“You displayed fearlessness and fought despite fears . . .”

“Thanks for placing God and country before your needs.”

“Your devotion to others has taught love, unity, and compassion.”

“You are a leader not only to peers but to the community and our family.”

“Your influence to our nation cannot be measured nor truly understood.”

“I appreciate your being a role model for many generations.”

“You sacrificed to preserve values of this great nation.”

“Most people today have no sense of the hardship, the devotion, or what it took to keep freedom accessible in this country.”

“You have an immense dedication to the nation.”

“You preserved the rights of others.”

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

To Know Them Is to Care For Them Better

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight

This year the BYU College of Nursing celebrated a decade of offering the veteran section of the clinical practicum for Public and Global Health Nursing—a unique class dedicated to helping nursing students learn how to serve and care for veterans. The college marked this occasion by cosponsoring an Honor Flight in May that allowed 17 veterans to visit and reflect at their war memorials in Washington, DC. The Utah Honor Flight, a Utah-based nonprofit, sponsored the remainder of the flight (33 veterans). The national Honor Flight organization has 127 hubs in 41 states and has included more than 98,500 veterans in the program since 2005; the Utah group has sent 500 veterans since 2013.

“When the course began in 2005 BYU had the only nursing program in the country that dedicated a semester to caring for veterans,” says associate teaching professor Ron Ulberg. “Other nursing schools are now pushing for veteran-care classes, but the BYU program certainly leads the way.”

Associate dean and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad (MS ’99) believes the veteran population needs to be understood the most. “As a nurse you may encounter patients in the hospital from Tonga, Ecuador, or Taiwan—other locations our global health students learn from,” says Blad. “However, with the Gulf Wars, you are more likely to care for a veteran with little difference in age, ability, and need; they may be no older than the caregiver. Learning who they are and what they have experienced will help a nurse to better care for them.”

Blad and Ulberg—both veterans themselves—instruct the veteran section each spring term, in which nursing students are taught how to care for the veteran population and then spend a week in Washington, DC, learning firsthand from various veterans and veteran groups, historical sites and clinical settings.

Last fall these professors participated in an Honor Flight, and at its conclusion, they desired that nursing students have the opportunity to serve as program guardians—providing constant companionship to each veteran as well as offering hygiene, restroom, medicinal, and other support.

“We thought, ‘How better to expose our students to the unique culture of our veterans than to have them spend three days learning from and serving these individuals?’” says Blad. Through the help of a grant from the university and donations from caring alumni and friends of the college, funds were obtained to cover the cost for both the sponsored veterans and for the students and support staff.

Watch Utah Honor Flight in 60-seconds video

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

Ravert’s Third Year Review: Serving with Students

Dean Ravert’s third-year review would not be complete without emphasizing her strong commitment to students. This past year was defined by the many interactions she had with students, and the many times she blessed the college with her example of service.

Nursing students had several opportunities to serve alongside their Dean. In November, Dean Ravert joined the Student Nurses Association to make Christmas ornaments for its Festival of Trees entry. The students and faculty gathered in the Nursing Learning Center with glitter and ribbons to create beautiful ornaments for the annual event that benefits the Primary Children’s Hospital.

This fun day of service allowed the students to get to know their Dean a little better and learn from her example.

Dean Ravert (front row left) participated in part of the Ecuador section of the clinical practicum for public and global health nursing course.

Dean Ravert (front row left) participated in part of the Ecuador section of the clinical practicum for public and global health nursing course.

Dean Ravert also joined the Ecuador section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course for a week in the Amazon jungle during spring term. She assisted faculty members Sondra Heaston and Stacie Hunsaker, and helped nursing students to learn from the Ecuadorian culture, to deliver babies in rural hospitals, and to monitor the health of children in multiple elementary schools.

Jacob Ferrin, a senior nursing student who went on the global health trip to Ecuador, said having the Dean participate with them was a great opportunity to become better acquainted with her and see how truly qualified she is.

“Dean Ravert has always seemed like a very professional lady, but this was a chance to see her fun side and hear her stories,” Ferrin said. “It was so helpful to have her expertise and insight while we were there.”

He enjoyed hearing more about the Dean’s experience and research and felt like she became “one of the students” on this trip.

Dean Ravert (in red) participating in a flag raising ceremony at Fort McHenry, along with veterans from a Utah Honor Flight group.

Dean Ravert (in red) observing veterans from a Utah Honor Flight fold a flag used on a navy ship in World War II.

Dean Ravert also served alongside another group of students a few weeks later when the College of Nursing sponsored 17 veterans on an Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C. The Dean went on the trip as a Guardian—a caretaker for an assigned veteran during the activity—for Elder Hartman Rector Jr., a Korean War Veteran and Emeritus General Authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Students from the Veteran section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course who had just spent a week in Washington D.C. learning how to best care for veterans returned to serve as guardians for the veterans on this flight. The students applied the knowledge they gained from their public and global health course during the three days they spent with the veterans.

One of the participants in the group said it was a nice opportunity for students to see the Dean from a different perspective. “She was just one of the students, serving like everybody else.”

Students in the College of Nursing have had other opportunities throughout the past year to get to know their Dean in a setting of service (washing windows at the United Way Day of Caring event in September, making humanitarian kits during the annual alumni service project in October, helping with a Days for Girls International sewing project in January, and dishing up food at the Take a BYU Cougar to Lunch event in February, etc.). She has never hesitated to take part in projects and activities where she can work with students, share her knowledge, and help others. Where nursing students are serving, Dean Ravert can often be found alongside them.