Letters needed to fill Honor Flight mailbags

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

Diane Shaw has seen the misty eyes that well when the letters are opened.

After flying miles above the earth, when the planes full of veterans return from Washington, D.C., the tears can’t be held back.

Some of the envelopes contain drawings. Others wrap around heartfelt thank-you notes.

Combined, the special conveyance reminds the vets that they are not forgotten.

“They’re just overwhelmed,” said Shaw, who is the vice president of Honor Flight of Southern Indiana. “Because they don’t feel like people remember them or appreciate them anymore. And when they get letters and colorings from strangers, it just hits back home that they are appreciated. We do care about them. We thank them for everything that they have done for us and this great country.”

Known as “Operation Mail Call,” the high-flying letter delivery is part of the “ultimate experience” the organization promises American heroes from across the region, Shaw explained. But concern has risen that the full experience could be in jeopardy for the veterans who will depart on the group’s next flight.

Twice a year, Honor Flight of Southern Indiana flies area vets to the nation’s capital at no charge. While there, the servicemen and servicewomen visit and explore memorials built in their honor, after which they return home to a celebratory crowd of thousands at the Evansville Regional Airport.

That warm welcome is a big moment. But so is Operation Mail Call.

The goal is for each vet to receive at least 100 letters. Typically, many of the notes and pieces of art are created by children in their classrooms. As schools sit empty across the region, though, a need has formed for letter-writers to fill the mailbag for the group’s next flight, which is set to take 85 veterans to D.C. on Saturday, August 22.

Honor Flight of Southern Indiana is also planning to send another group of 85 vets to the nation’s capital in early October, meaning the group is hoping to deliver, at minimum, 17,000 letters in just over a month.

“We’re afraid we’re not gonna have it for our first flight,” Shaw said of a full mail call. “Because being that the schools are out, we don’t have that communication that we normally have with the schools, and the teachers and the principals.”

It doesn’t matter if you know someone on the flight or if you’re a total stranger just wanting to express your gratitude. At this time, a time in which Americans are being asked to stay inside their homes and limit social interactions to stymie the spread of COVID-19, everyone is encouraged to send a letter to the Honor Flight organization.

“Just make it a personal letter in saying what it means to have a veteran that has served this country,” Shaw said. “How you appreciate them. Especially when we’re all going through this coronavirus. Our lives are disrupted a little bit, and our grandfathers, and these veterans that we’re talking about, their lives were disrupted when they were called to service.”

That mail can be directed to Honor Flight of Southern Indiana, ATTN: Mail Call, P.O. Box 8234, Evansville, Indiana, 47716.

Honor Flight's local contact is Patrick OKeefe and he can also collect and take letters to Evansville. You can call him at 812-630-2567 or email him at pjo2567@yahoo.com.

During this period of distancing, Shaw also encouraged parents to sit down with their children and “actually explain to them what a veteran is. What a veteran has done for this country, and talk about our current military.”




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