Spotlight on … Twin Tiers Honor Flight

By Rob Montana
Tompkins Weekly

Non-profit organizations are plentiful throughout Tompkins County, and make a big impact in our communities. Despite their contributions, area non-profits can sometimes go unnoticed or unknown. In an effort to shine a spotlight on those who are making a difference in our county, Tompkins Weekly will be showcasing these organizations on a regular basis.

Photo by William Ennis
A veteran who used Twin Tiers Honor Flight arrives in Washington, where he was greeted by a band and hundreds of people welcoming him with signs, applause and handshakes.

This week we are highlighting Twin Tiers Honor Flight, which is based in Brooktondale. To learn more about the organization, we interviewed Nancy Kane, director and co-founder of the non-profit.

Tompkins Weekly: What is your mission?
Nancy Kane: Twin Tiers Honor Flight is a non-profit charitable organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. As part of the national Honor Flight Network, we transport World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and terminally ill veterans of any conflict to Washington, D.C., in honor of their service so that they can visit and reflect at their memorials and at the Arlington National Cemetery Changing of the Guard ceremony. Top priority is given to senior veterans (World War II survivors), along with veterans who may be terminally ill.

TW: How do you fulfill that mission?
NK: We charter jets and buses to transport the veterans to D.C. Throughout the day, the veterans are honored and their service is celebrated with music, gifts, letters, and anything we can do to make the experience unforgettable. Members of the National Park Police escort our tour buses with sirens and create a motorcade for the group – it’s fun to cut through D.C. traffic, and the veterans appreciate the extra special treatment! Guardians (who pay their own way) are assigned to each veteran to care for them throughout the day, and we bring a team of trained caregivers as well to provide health and safety support.
We do our best to share the experience with the community by inviting the media to join us on trips and we also have Facebook (Twin Tiers Honor Flight, Inc.) and Twitter (@TwinTiersHnrFlt) pages. People often want to greet the veterans and take photos with them. Former Senator Bob Dole is sometimes at the World War II Memorial, and he enjoys meeting our Honor Flight participants.

Photo by William Ennis
A Flags of Our Heroes ceremony, a Twin Tiers Honor Flight program in which a Honor Guard has a ceremony for a deceased veteran and gives the flag to the family.

TW: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces?
NK: Fundraising is our biggest challenge, because we need to charter jets since commercial travel from our area is logistically impossible. It costs about $500 to take each veteran, and we need to raise money all year to pay for just one trip. Meanwhile, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, we lose approximately 640 WWII veterans every day; time is running out for them, so we need funding from foundations, businesses, community and church groups, and individuals to cover our expenses. For our next trip, we already have a waiting list. We are an all-volunteer organization, and approximately 93 percent of our funding goes directly to serve local veterans.

TW: What is something people do not know about your organization?
NK: We appreciate the constant support of the Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcycle groups, so we have an annual Ride for the Memories to give a special salute to their contributions. This year, the ride will be July 22.
We also have an Adopt-A-Highway section of I-86 between Elmira and Horseheads. On April 22 (Earth Day) this year, we invite people to help us clean up our section and plant poppies in remembrance of fallen veterans.

TW: How can people best support your mission?
NK: There are three main ways: 1) donate, and encourage your friends, workplace, and groups to send tax-deductible donations by check or Paypal via our website at twintiershonorflight.org, or purchase quilt raffle tickets on our website to benefit TTHF and Common Threads Quilters Guild, 2) download applications from our website or call to have us mail applications to get veterans, guardians, and volunteers on board, and 3) volunteer to help. There are many ways to be involved, and often things can be done via e-mail in spare moments. Ask us if your group can volunteer to host a fundraiser on our behalf, or participate at special events like the Adopt-A-Highway clean-up or the motorcycle ride. Finally, please consider a legacy of making trips possible for more veterans by including Twin Tiers Honor Flight as a beneficiary in planned giving or to honor a loved one who has passed away.

 

More about Twin Tiers Honor Flight:

Founded: 2012
Address: 2735 Slaterville Road, Brooktondale
Phone: (800) 683-5403
Website: TwinTiersHonorFlight.org