SAL member salutes veteran at Veterans' Day of Honor in Maryville, Missouri.


Sons of Legion squadron brings Washington, D.C., home for veterans unable to make trip

Conception Junction, MO

In Maryville, Missouri, Sons of the American Legion (SAL) Squadron 464 held a special event to honor veterans who could not make it to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments and memorials made in their honor. The Veterans' Day of Honor, modeled after Kansas City, Missouri's, "flightless Honor Flight," took place Nov. 5, 2016, at a new performing arts center at the local high school. Between 15 and 20 veteran honorees attended.

The Honor Flight program attempts to bring World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C., to honor them and to show them the memorials dedicated to them and their comrades.

But because of waitlists, expense, health issues and other reasons, many veterans don't get the chance to make it. For similar reasons, they can't drive or fly there themselves either.

Steve Holtman, commander of the SAL squadron, said he was inspired to host an event after attending an informational meeting about Honor Flights. But he wanted to bring the experience home to his area's local veterans.

"We just did it for the members who have done so much for our community over the years," Holtman said. "We thought it was just a little something we could do to say thanks."

The squadron used Kansas City's program as a model and developed and put the program together themselves.

They showed videos about the World War II memorial and other icons that are seen on traditional Honor Flights. The high school band played a medley of service songs as well as the national anthem. Local SAL members acted in skits that remembered fallen soldiers. The local National Guard brought out Humvees.

Lunch was served, and when the veterans passed through an area where a speech and debate tournament was happening, students applauded and cheered, Holtman said.

"It was really emotional for some of them because they said they hadn't had a welcome like that that they remembered," Holtman said.

Each honoree also received a certificate. Holtman said though they were simple and black and white, one veteran said he was going to frame his "immediately."

He said he would be willing to help SAL squadrons that want to host similar events.

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