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Honor Flight To Nation’s Capital Planned Solely For Female Vets

By Taylor Dungjen, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (Tribune News Service)

For the first time, Honor Flight Columbus is putting together an all-female trip to the nation’s capital.

Organizers hope the trip will be an opportunity for many women veterans who have not claimed a seat on previous honor flights, indicating they want to leave the spots for their male veteran counterparts.

“A lot said, ‘I wasn’t in combat’ and didn’t feel like they deserved to go,” said Bill Richards, director emeritus of Honor Flight Columbus, who is organizing the Sept. 10 flight.

Honor Flight Columbus will take 80 to 85 female vets, with priority given to World War II and Korean War veterans, to Washington. They will take about 30 active-duty military women — 10 from central Ohio and 20 from the Baltimore area — to accompany and guide the veterans, Richards said.

“These ladies broke the glass ceilings, so ladies now can do all they can do,” Richards, who has organized Honor Flights out of Columbus for 10 years with his wife, Bobbi, said. “They’re genuine heroes to ladies now; it’s long past due for these women to step out of the shadows.”

Since announcing the all-female trip, Honor Flight Columbus has received about 60 applications. Anyone who doesn’t make it on the upcoming trip will be put on a waiting list. Richards said he hopes the Columbus organization will organize another all-female flight again next year.

Jana Oyerbides, who served four years in the Air Force and who is the lead investigator at the Lucas County Veterans Commission, said it’s only right to recognize women veterans.

“Every job is important, and it all leads to the same thing,” she said. “Just because you’re not a combat vet doesn’t mean you’re not serving to prepare for war. That’s the whole point of being in the military. Fe-males are needed just as much as their male counterparts.”

Women have gone on other trips, though typically only one or two at a time. Many women, Richards said, are reluctant to come forward because “they felt like they were second-class” during their service.

Many women, he said, have told him they were not always respected by male colleagues. The military experience during their years of service wasn’t accommodating to women, they said. Some have shared stories of being issued men’s boots and used uniforms, he said.

“It took incredible courage to walk out of their safe homes, wherever they were, to serve with predominantly men,” Richards said.

The trip costs $58,000 and is being sponsored by the Columbus suburb of Westerville.

Applications are available at honorflightcolumbus.org.

Mr. Richards said the organization also is seeking letters of thanks and support for the veterans. To send a letter, address it to Honor Flight Columbus, P.O. Box 12036, Columbus, OH, 43212.

“The vets treasure … the cards and letters from children,” Mr. Richards said. “We’ve had more than one … ask that letters be buried with them when they die.”

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