Mayor Chris Beutler, Lincoln Airport officials and Bill and Evonne Williams of Patriotic Productions encourage the public to be at the Airport Monday, May 1 to welcome 652 Vietnam veterans back home from a day of activities in Washington, DC. The four planes are expected to land in Lincoln between 8 and 9 p.m. The Vietnam veterans from Nebraska will be the largest group from a single state ever to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
The Williams say this will be the final veterans "honor flight" they organize. Since 2008, their Patriotic Productions organization has given free trips to the nation's capital to 2,600 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
"About 5,000 people were at the Omaha airport last year to welcome Vietnam veterans back from their honor flight, and I am confident that Lincoln will see an even bigger turnout," Mayor Beutler said. "Many of these veterans were not welcomed back as heroes when they returned from Vietnam. This is an opportunity for Nebraskans to let them know how much we appreciate their service."
The veterans taking the trip are from 175 Nebraska communities, and the group includes 55 Purple Heart and 10 Distinguished Flying Cross recipients. In addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, they will visit Arlington National Cemetery and the World War II, Iwo Jima, Korean War and Air Force memorials. While they are in DC, their spouses will enjoy a day at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and a winery. Bill Williams said chartering four jets costs about $87,000 each. The flights are being sponsored by Pinnacle Bank, Sandhills Publishing Company, Norfolk Iron and Metal and the Harper Family Foundation. Donations are also accepted at patrioticproductions.org.
Lincoln Airport Operations Director Robert McNally says that, in addition to the usual parking areas, remote parking lots up to a mile from the terminal are available to handle guests at the event. Shuttles will transport people from the lots to the terminal for the celebration. McNally suggests visitors carpool to the Airport to reduce the need for parking and follow directions of law enforcement officers and volunteers. A full list of recommendations for people attending the event is posted at lincolnairport.com.