WATSONVILLE — When Alex Solano flew out of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport on Oct. 15 with 21 other veterans, he felt a sense of camaraderie amongst his fellow retired service members.
“It was a good thing to see the other veterans,” he said. “We talked about our service and we bonded. You are able to understand what they went through.”
Solano was selected to participate in the 2018 Honor Flight Central Coast, where he joined other veterans on an all-expenses-paid three-day trip to national monuments and memorials dedicated to service members in Washington, D.C.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization was formed as a way to take veterans to the nation’s capital to see the monuments dedicated to them.
It was started in 2005 by retired Air Force Capt. Earl Morse, and the Central Coast chapter was formed in 2014, based in Paso Robles.
Solano, who served in the United States Air Force from 1952-1956, said the flight’s passengers consisted of five World War II veterans and 17 Korean War veterans, along with their guardians.
The goal, he said, is to try to reach as many aging World War II veterans and let them know this service is available to them at no cost.
And time is of the essence. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day.
“The idea is to try to get as many people in the program before they pass on,” Solano said.
Funded entirely by donations, the next Honor Flight trip is set for May 6-8. While the trip is free for veterans, it costs $1,500 for guardians, which includes lodging, food and other expenses. Guardians are typically family members, but volunteer guardians can also be assigned.
For information, visit www.honorflightccc.org.