Tony Lamanna, Inland Northwest Honor Flight’s director, greeted the guests at the Pearl Harbor event at Spokane Falls Community College with grim news. The future of the program is in jeopardy due to lack of funds.
Inland Northwest Honor Flight takes local war veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials honoring their service and sacrifices. Since 2009, 403 area veterans have made the trip, courtesy of the program.
“We have lost the free tickets from Southwest Airlines,” Lamanna said. “Southwest is still giving tickets to Honor Flight, but Honor Flight is only giving those to new hubs just starting out.”
The decision was made at the national level. “It is understandable but frustrating to us, as we almost have the farthest to fly of any hub in the country, which naturally translates to higher airfare,” Lamanna said.
World War II veterans are of particular concern to him. He said, “We are losing our WWII vets nationally at a rate of approximately 1,000 per day, and have lost at least 20 from our local list that we are aware of.”
Currently, the organization has 220 veterans on its waiting list. They will be taking a total of 70 on the first two flights of the year in April and June.
Lamanna issued this plea to the assembled crowd: “If everyone in Spokane County donated just one dollar, we would bring in $472,000. That would get our remaining World War II vets on their Honor Flight and likely get us through our Korean War vets and into our Vietnam vets.”
In a follow-up email he added, “With the current cost of airfare plus the $200 cost for hotel, meals and transportation on an Honor Flight, we will be bankrupt after our second flight in June if we were to raise no more money as of today.”