Screening dignity for Veterans

These days, it seems like Congress doesn't get much right, but here's something that makes some sense.

A bill known as the Honor Flight Act has been approved by the House and is now under consideration by a U.S. Senate committee.

The goal of H.R. 4812 is get war veterans on an Honor Flight through the airport screening process quickly and with dignity.

Here's the actual text of the bill introduced by Representative Cedric Richmond, a Democrat representing Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District:

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A BILL

To amend title 49, United States Code, to require the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration to establish a process for providing expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans traveling to visit war memorials built and dedicated to honor their service, and for other purposes.

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Central Valley Honor Flight is part of the Honor Flight Network... a non-profit that provides World War Two Veterans a free trip to Washington, D.C. to visit their war memorial and other monuments.

I've been on two of the three Central Valley Honor Flights (so far) with dozens of World War Two Veterans.

These local heroes who fought for freedom and against tyranny are now in their late '80's and '90's... with the oldest Veteran turning 99 on the day we left for Washington on the 2nd Honor Flight.

Although some of them look and sound like they could jump into a foxhole tomorrow and take on the Axis Powers... the advancing age and declining health of the Veterans makes it difficult to rush or hurry them through airport screenings, boarding and unloading from buses, and visiting the various monuments in Washington, D.C.

However, the Veterans' Guardians or chaperons and the many volunteers who travel with the Central Valley Honor Flight do a remarkable job of helping and keeping them safely on the move. Three Honor Flights have departed Fresno in the past ten months on a charter supplied by Allegiant Air and the fourth trip by the Central Valley Honor Flight will leave Fresno-Yosemite International Airport on September 15th.

To get them on-board... the TSA and officials with FYI... set up a special check-in just for the Veterans, Guardians, Volunteers, and Media like our Action News crew.

The check-in and screening all took place in a separate area... away from the airport's commercial passengers... so there was no interference.

I took photos of this process during the first two Honor Flights.



Central Valley Honor Flight Director Al Perry has a great appreciation for the people at FYI.

Perry says "On all three of our trips, the FYI and TSA staff have gone out of their way to jointly plan for and then render dignified, respectful, and expeditious care and screening."

He adds "You couldn't ask for better treatment for these 87 to 99 year old Central Valley Heroes."

However, the Honor Flight experience can be different in other parts of the country.

Sports Broadcaster Paul Loeffler of Central Valley Honor Flight says "One thing to remember is our flights are not necessarily typical of flights around the country. Many hubs fly smaller numbers of Veterans on commercial flights, where their contingent is just a small percentage of the plane's passenger load."

Also, many Honor Flights in other states not as far away as California, only make day-trips to Washington.

They fly in and out on the same day...meaning the Veterans must be screened twice in a matter of hours.

Making sure all Honor Flight Veterans are treated with respect and dignity at all airports during the screening process is the goal of the bill now under consideration in Congress.

Fresno Congressman Jim Costa supports the bill and is well aware of the sacrifices made by the World War Two Veterans.

His uncle, Marine Corp Veteran Tony Cardoso of Kerman, took part in the 2nd Central Valley Honor Flight back in April.



Another uncle didn't come home from the War.

He was killed in a B-24 crash.

Costa voted in favor of the Honor Flight Act.

The Congressman says "H.R. 4812, the Honor Flight Act, will allow our veterans traveling on an Honor Flight, to have a screening service that better reflects their needs. For many of our WWII veterans, Honor Flight will be their final mission and it is my goal to make the experience as memorable as possible. These men and women are the greatest generation and have earned our eternal respect and gratitude."

The 5th Central Valley Honor Flight will give local Veterans a new and exciting experience as they leave California and then return to the Golden State.

On October 27th, the Honor Flight will take-off from the former Castle Air Force Base in Merced County.

No doubt, this historic World War Two airfield will bring back many memories for our Valley Heroes and help them create new memories with comrades to recall in their final years.
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