Utah Honor Flight Veterans Visit National Archives
By John Valceanu | National Archives News
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2021— A group of 74 veterans visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, on September 18, 2021, where they viewed the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Utah Honor Flight veterans and their volunteer "guardians" arrive for their visit to the National Archives in Washington, DC, September 18, 2021. (National Archives photo by John Valceanu)
A Utah Honor Flight veteran reads about the creation of the U.S. Constitution in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC, September 18, 2021. (National Archives photo by John Valceanu)
A Utah Honor Flight veteran and his "guardian" read about the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC, September 18, 2021. (National Archives photo by John Valceanu)
Veterans and their "guardians" from the Utah Honor Flight look at the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC, September 18, 2021. (National Archives photo by John Valceanu)
A member of the Utah Honor Flight looks at records related to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, on special display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, during a visit on September 18, 2021. (National Archives photo by John Valceanu)
The veterans’ visit was facilitated by the Utah Honor Flight, part of a national network that provides veterans from the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, along with seriously ill or injured veterans from other eras, with all-expense-paid visits to the nation’s capital. This was the first honor flight to visit the National Archives since the program temporarily shut down in early 2020, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
During their visit, veterans visit memorials dedicated to honor those who served and sacrificed for their country. The visit to the National Archives allows them to see the Constitution, which they served while in uniform. The Utah Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that operates solely on donations.
This was also the largest group of veterans ever brought to Washington for a single visit by the Utah Honor Flight, according to Stephanie Harmon, who serves as chairman for the organization.
“We have 10 World War II–era veterans on this flight. Our oldest veteran just turned 103,” Harmon said. “I’m happy that we’re able to start the trips again. We had several veterans who passed away during the pandemic, who didn’t have the chance to make the trip.”
One of the World War II–era service members who was on this honor flight was Navy veteran Douglas Shay.
“This was my first time in Washington. It was really interesting,” Shay said. “I’ve always been a history fan. Seeing the Constitution firsthand was really impressive.”
Korean War–era Army veteran Ray Hintze said he was also impressed with the visit, though this was not his first visit to Washington, DC. Hintze said he taught history for 30 years and took a number of his classes to the National Archives for field trips.
“The Rotunda is really beautiful. There’s a lot of history in this building,” Hintze said. “This trip has been wonderful. They’ve taken really good care of us.”
James Sheppard, a Vietnam War–era veteran who went on to complete a career as a soldier and retire from the Army as a sergeant first class, said he also appreciated the honor flight to the capital and the visit to the National Archives.
“It’s been fantastic. I’ve always been interested in history, and I know about the Constitution, but seeing what it looks like for real has been a great experience. There’s nothing like coming to see things for yourself.”
Chrisa Rich, tour coordinator for the National Archives, said the honor flights are very special events for everyone involved.
“The veterans are excited to be here, and we’re excited to have them visit us,” Rich said. “We revere them as much as they revere our founding documents, and those documents really mean something to them. They really have a reverence for the Constitution. They put their lives on the line for it.”
Rich said that all National Archives employees, as well as volunteer docents and student interns, enjoy being part of the honor flights and hosting the veterans. They treat the veterans as VIPs and provide them with extra attention. She noted that she personally loves to have conversations with them.
“There’s a special feeling in the air, when the honor flights arrive. The veterans love to talk about things that uplift their spirits, and most of them are very upbeat,” Rich said. “This is the chance of a lifetime for many of them, who haven’t been to DC before.”