Record number of women veterans with over 50 years of collective service were on the flight

NORTH COUNTY — Veterans were welcomed home on Wednesday, May 15, at the Santa Maria Airport after they took their “Tour of Honor” in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight Central Coast (Honor Flight). Over 80 veterans made this trip to the Nation’s Capital, most of which had served during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Honor Flight Chairman Bear McGill told Paso Robles Press, “Our [Honor Flight’s] goal is to find as many veterans as we can and give them a free trip back to Washington D.C. so they can see the memorials that were built in their honor.”

Honor Flight Central Coast of California is a nonprofit dedicated to honoring our nation’s veterans by taking them to Washington D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials. The nonprofit places a focus on providing this opportunity to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The trips are typically arranged at no cost to the veterans, with funding provided through donations and sponsorships.

“Tours of Honor” are made twice a year from the Central Coast, one in the Spring and another in the Fall. Lately, trips have been filled with Korean and Vietnam veterans who did not receive the same happy welcome home as their predecessors did. On this trip, a record number of women veterans made the trip back to D.C. Five women with over 50 years of collective service were able to visit the Vietnam Women’s Memorial which is dedicated to the nurses and women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War.

In the 10 years of Honor Flights existence on the Central Coast, they have taken over 660 veterans from Salinas all the way down to the Ventura and Camarillo area.

McGill said during this trip, their veterans received a warm welcome from others visiting the memorial sites, “Our veterans got the true recognition from a lot of people … thanking them for serving our country — it was an incredible trip.”

McGill has received a lot of positive feedback from the veterans who attended the trip, many of whom might have been hesitant at first to go. 

“I tell them it’s our pleasure to give you this trip because you guys deserve it and you guys deserve the recognition and the homecoming that you’ve never gotten,” he said.

One veteran in particular recalled his time in Vietnam during their visit at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. One night this particular veteran was on patrol and was pulled off last minute by another man in his unit — that man ended up dying that same night. This veteran with Honor Flight found his unit on the wall and the name of the man who relieved him from patrol that night. 

“This veteran had carried that with him all these years until we took him on an Honor Flight,” explained McGill. “He said that he’s always wondered what this gentleman’s life would’ve been like had he not removed him.”

Atascadero Police Officer Tim Perkins was able to serve as a guardian on the Honor Flight, accompanying one of the veterans.

In a social media post, the Atascadero Police Department said, “It’s moments like these that remind us of the incredible dedication and compassion of our team. Thank you, Officer Perkins, for your selflessness and commitment to honoring our veterans. Your service both on and off duty truly makes a difference.”

Four veterans who reside at the Creston Village Senior Living were able to make this Spring trip to Washington D.C. with Honor Flight. They served in various branches and served during various conflicts and now boast an average age of 86.

The residents who were able to attend were James “Jim” Sims (U.S. Air Force, 1951 to 1955), Troy Waddle (U.S. Air Force, 1962 to 1966), George Cobb (U.S. Army, 1958 to 1962), and Michele Reed (U.S. Navy, 1975 to 1981).

Of the four residents going, two have never seen the sights of our great nation’s capital. Sims was one of those individuals.

When asked if he had been to D.C., he thoughtfully replied that he had been to “other cities on the East Coast, but I’ve never been to Washington. It is exciting to see the monuments to our nation.”

Sims was one of four veterans from across the country chosen to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sims said he felt the weight and reverence of this honor, sharing that doing such a thing was beyond his wildest imagination of what he thought he would be doing at 95 years old.

Life Enrichment Director Julie Tacker championed for these veterans to join the Honor Flight. 

“I’m extremely thrilled to see these four amazing individuals be recognized and be able to go on this trip,” she said. “Creston Village has more veterans than any other senior living community I have worked with previously, and we are committed to sharing their stories and honoring their sacrifices.”

Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that relies on community contributions to help bring these veterans to their memorials. It is run entirely by volunteer efforts. They will be making their next trip in September. 

McGill shared something the learned on their recent Honor Flight: “One thing I think the public needs to know, and I just learned this from some of the Vietnam veterans is, don’t walk up to the veteran and say thank you for your service because a lot of these guys were drafted … so what they appreciate is that if you say thank you for serving this country and welcome home.”

To learn more about Honor Flight, visit

Feature Image: Creston Village Senior Living residents who attended the May Honor Flight were (from left) Jim Sims, Troy Waddle, Michelle Reed, and George Cobb. Photo provided by Creston Village Senior Living