A behind the scenes look at the personnel that put an Honor Flight together.
The mission of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is to take ALL veterans who apply on their “trip of a lifetime” to visit monuments and memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice. To facilitate our mission we are an all volunteer group. What does that mean? It means all funding raised goes to supporting our mission. We have no paid staff.
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is a 501 (C)(3) charity governed by a Board of Directors. The board is responsible for making decisions regarding all aspects of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.
So, just how many people does it take to organize a flight? Our staff consists of eleven board members, individual coordinators, many volunteers and sponsors that are responsible for each segment of a flight.
A: Board members:
- Vice President
- Seven other voting board members
B: Board Advisors
- There are two advisors to the board.
C: Group Coordinators
- Veteran Coordinator
- Guardian Coordinator
- Orientation Coordinator
- Flight Coordinator
- Airport Services Coordinator
- Social Media Coordinator
- Media and PR Coordinator
- Photography and Website Coordinator
- Logistics Coordinator
- Volunteer Coordinator
- Letters to the Vets Coordinator
- Medical Coordinators
- Flight day staff
- The Volunteer Staff
- The Eastern Iowa Airport
- Local law enforcement and fire department personnel
- Local news groups
- Local sponsors, support groups and donations
- Veterans families and friends
The President oversees all aspects of each Honor Flight from Orientation Day through the return of the flight to the Eastern Iowa Airport. The President is also the DC Flight Coordinator in charge of all activities on each flight. As the Washington, D. C. Coordinator the president
- Manages time and schedules
- Arranges tour buses making sure all buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts
- Reserving the Color Guard at the World War II Memorial.
- Make sure catering arrives at prescribed locations and times.
- Applies for any Federal Park permits when required at various sites.
- Reserves special Military activities (ie: Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, etc).
- Manages all other events throughout the day.
The Washington, D.C. Flight Coordinator begins organizing activities as soon as the flight dates are reserved. Many of these events are scheduled 6 months prior to the first flight of a calendar year.
All activities are checked and double checked numerous times prior to the flight date by group coordinators. Any specific names or contacts are logged in the flight book for each flight. A flight checklist is maintained with intervals for cross checking all details.
Second in command of the Board of Directors. The Vice President assumes the role of President in the absence of the President.
- The Vice-President manages guardian and veteran applications and enters onto a computer spreadsheet.
- Involved in sending out press releases.
- Contacts Iowa’s legislative staff in Washington, D. C. to invite them to meet our veterans at World War Two memorial.
- Contact Staff at Arlington Cemetery for wreath a laying ceremony.
- All other miscellaneous duties related to the flight.
The treasurer manages all financial aspects of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. The treasurer is responsible for paying incoming bills, monitors checking accounts and credit cards and investing funds. This person is also responsible for filing tax reports.
The secretary takes minutes from each board meeting and distributes the minutes to board members. The secretary also answers general questions from staff and the public.
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is governed by eleven board members, President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and seven other board members. The board is responsible for making decisions in the management of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to provide the best possible experience for veterans on each flight.
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight has two board advisors. They assist the board in making decisions based on their prior experience with the group and their military background.
The Veteran Coordinator assists in maintaining the veterans wait list. This list is reviewed prior to each flight season selecting the next eligible veterans on the wait list to be invited on a flight. All applications are chosen by the date they are received. Priorities are given to World War Two, Korean Conflict, and veterans who are terminally ill. The coordinator sends flight invitations and collects veteran information needed for the flight. The veterans coordinator works closely with the other coordinators to ensure each veteran has a guardian, all medical concerns are addressed, and the veterans questions are answered at orientation. Additional behind the scenes activities include orientation seating, aircraft flight seating, bus assignments and validating ID.
The Guardian Coordinator oversees the process of matching guardians with veterans on their respective flight. The Guardian Coordinator will interface with the Veteran Coordinator to ensure veterans are paired with their requested guardian. All coordinators will attend Honor Flight monthly board meetings to provide updates and information about upcoming orientation and flight dates. Guardian Coordinators will check Grasshopper (data filing software) frequently and return calls that pertain to guardian questions and concerns. The Guardian Coordinators will send out invitations outlining guardian paperwork including demographic information, medical information, and signed covenant. Guardian Coordinators will maintain and keep up to date their guardian spreadsheet. They are responsible for updating spreadsheets as guardian applications arrive. They will continue to cross check their spreadsheet to the Veteran Coordinator spreadsheet for accuracy.
The Orientation Coordinator is responsible for communicating with Hotel Kirkwood arranging orientation times and dates. Orientation is the pre-flight date scheduled for veterans, guardians, and staff to meet and review the itinerary for the upcoming flight. Other responsibilities include assembling veteran and guardian packets with information pertaining to their flight, print and distribute printed materials, prepares name tags, contacts the Cedar Rapids Fire Department to display the beautiful American Flag, and contacts local American Legion Posts to provide the Color Guard for opening and closing ceremonies. Additionally, they contact Hy-Vee Food Store to provide cookies and water for the group, as well as work with Hotel Kirkwood to provide audio/ visual equipment, and work with other staff members to coordinate flight activities.
The Flight Coordinator is the point of contact between Eastern Iowa Honor Flight and our airline partner. The Flight Coordinator’s main responsibilities are to request and review quotes from airlines and suggest to the board what would be the best options for chartering aircraft. Other duties include handling special requests in connection with the airline and coordination on each trip at the Eastern Iowa Airport.
Airport Services Coordinator
The Airport Services Coordinator manages flight services at the Eastern Iowa Airport. The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight takes sixty wheelchairs on each flight. The coordinator purchases, inspects, maintains, and repairs all wheel chairs. Pre-flight, the chairs are transported to the airport where they are inspected by TSA personnel and stored in a secure area. On flight day the coordinator interacts with all Honor Flight staff, provides veterans with wheel chairs, and assists loading wheelchairs on the aircraft. The coordinator prepares the terminal for the evening welcome home activities including hiring a band, displaying banners, marking off a runway for the veterans, and coordinating with other staff volunteers. In addition, the coordinator interacts with airport staff and keeps the Honor Flight Board of Directors updated with current TSA regulations and construction airport projects that affect an Honor Flight. The Coordinator also manages the post flight which includes terminal cleanup and recovering wheelchairs.
Social Media Coordinator
The Social Media Coordinator manages the social media aspect. These include advertising flights and updating information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Media and PR Coordinator
Designs and submits timely ads to the Gazette. Coordinates responses with local press including facilitating radio and TV interviews.
Photography and Website Coordinator
The Photography and Website Coordinator is responsible for arranging photographers to accompany flights and to photograph special events special events as related to Honor Flights. The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight takes two photographers on each Honor Flight and schedules photographers to document the welcome home at the Eastern Iowa Airport. After the flight all photos are loaded on the internet for everyone to view. As the website coordinator the coordinator updates and manages the website. Tasks include updating flight information, adding new donations, updating photo gallery, making sure all applications are functioning, coding, and monitors website security as well as all other website functions.
The Logistics Coordinator inventories and manages the supply trailer. The duties include ordering veteran and guardian hats and shirts as well as supplies needed for orientation and other flight services.
The role of Volunteer Coordinator is to fill staffing needs for all the events relating to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. Events range from entering data on spreadsheet to communicating with volunteers finding opportunities for them to help to volunteer. During the flight season we recruit volunteers to assist at orientations, working at the airport on the mornings and evenings of the flights and sometimes even finding random volunteers to accompany veterans as guardians on flights. Outside of flight season, we are planning for the next year and also working on fundraising projects that will require some help. If you would like to sign up to become a volunteer, you can find the application under the applications tab here on our website.
Letters to Veteran Coordinators
Our Letters to Vets Project is a way to honor our Veterans by writing letters, making cards or drawing pictures showing appreciation for our Veterans’ service to our country. Veterans going on an Honor Flight receive these letters, cards and pictures in their mailbags on the return flight from Washington, D.C. The Letters to the Veterans Coordinators facilitate this project by reaching out to the Veterans’ families and giving them directions on how to get letters from family and friends to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight team for inclusion in the Vets’ mailbag. Our volunteers gather these letters from the Post Office and/or print them from email. The volunteers also try to make contact with each guardian and companion of the Veteran at Orientation explaining our Letters to Veterans Project and asking for their help recruiting letters. Family members may expect a phone call from our volunteers if no letters have been received a couple weeks prior to flight day. These same volunteers are also responsible for printing a certificate for each Veteran and their guardian going on the flight. They also coordinate pickup of plaques for each Veteran with the Cedar Rapids Corvette Club. These volunteers pack the mailbags the weekend prior to each flight. Mailbags include the personal letters written by family and friends, as well as letters that have been submitted by schools, clubs, auxiliaries and other community groups. Mail bags are packed in tubs and transported to the airport flight morning so that they can be loaded onto the airplane. The volunteers are also responsible for ordering printed items from the print shop for inclusion in the Veteran’s mailbag and making sure there is a sufficient inventory of mail bags and supplies to make all this happen for each flight.
Safety is our #1 primary concern. Providing a healthy, safe environment for our Veteran is monumental. We salute their courage and sacrifice by providing a day of memories for our Veterans. Before each scheduled Eastern Iowa Honor Flight Orientation, the Medical staff reviews the Veteran Medical Form paying attention to medical diagnosis, medication, mobility and any special equipment the Veteran may need such as oxygen, nebulizer treatments etc. If there are questions on the day of the orientation we can have a face to face conversation with the Veteran. On flight day two Registered Nurses and two EMT/Fireman on each flight. Each Medical Staff member is given the Medical Forms of the Veteran’s who will be on the bus in Washington, D. C. Any specific diagnosis or special attention to medications, diets, mobility issues are highlighted on the medical forms. The Medical staff review the forms on the flight to Washington, D. C. in preparation for this special day for the Veterans.
Safety for the veterans is of the utmost concern on every flight. To ensure a safe and memorable flight for the veterans, each Honor Flight takes fourteen staff members on each flight. There are four bus captains, four medical staff, four wheel chair captains, and two photographers.
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is an all volunteer group. In addition to the board members and group coordinators, we have a vast group of volunteers that we depend on to complete our mission. Our volunteers are the backbone of our group, not getting the credit they deserve. There are so many things they do to list individually but some are assisting with Orientation and they are a major part of our airport staff, especially on flight day. Without the volunteers’ assistance completing our mission would not be possible. On average our volunteer staff donate more than eight-thousand hours each annually.
The Eastern Iowa Airport
Not enough can be said about the Eastern Iowa Honor Flights relationship with the Eastern Iowa Airport. Without the assistance of the airport staff (including all flight services and TSA) completing the mission of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight would be impossible.
To ensure a safe and memorable flight for the veterans, each Honor Flight takes fourteen staff members. There are four bus captains, four medical staff, four wheel chair captains, and two photographers. Safety for the veterans is of the utmost concern on every flight.
Sun Country Airlines
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight partners with Sun Country Airlines to provide flights services from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Washington, D.C. and back.
Local Law Enforcement and Fire Department Personnel
No Honor Flights would be able to get off the ground or land without the assistance of local Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol and Fire Department personnel. Police Officers, Highway Patrol Officers, Sheriff Deputies, and Fire Department staff assist every flight in many ways including getting wheelchair veterans to the aircraft in the morning and off the plane on the return trip.
Local News Groups
Area news groups including newsprint, radio, and TV stations are part of a great support system of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. Thanks to their print coverage, live TV, and radio broadcasts, both local and on the ground in Washington, D. C. every flight is covered in great detail. Many reporters have accompanied Honor Flights on the one day trip to visit with the veterans and hear stories from many decades of their service to our country.
Sponsors, Support Groups, and Donors
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight could not complete our mission without the generous support from our sponsors, support groups, and donors. The donations of time and money they provide makes it possible for veterans to visit Washington, D. C.
Families and Friends
Lest we not forget the families and friends that have supported the veterans through their years of service and sacrifice. The mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles that were left at home. Without their support during the veteran’s deployment and at the welcome home, their service would have been much more difficult.
And, of course, we could not have Honor Flights without the most important people, our veterans! The veteran’s are why we are so proud to be volunteers in the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND WELCOME HOME VETERANS!