PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Since 2012, the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Association has been connecting local veterans with the memories of their fallen comrades in Washington D.C.
Retired Providence Fire Chief George Farrell is the chairman of the Rhode Island’s Honor Flight. He tells 12 News that so far, they’ve organized 24 Honor Flights and have taken 575 veterans to the nation’s capital.
“When we started this, it was mostly World War II veterans,” Farrell said. “Most of those veterans were in their mid- to late-70s heading into their 80s, and without Honor Flight, they likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. at all.”
Since then, Farrell said they’re not only taking World War II veterans, but veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well.
“To have this day and this opportunity to be honored for the service and sacrifice they gave to our country is a very special moment for them,” Farrell said.
He said so far, the oldest veteran to travel with to Washington D.C. with them was 103 years old.
Ferrell said this Veterans Day, they received a $20,000 donation from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104, which said they wanted to sponsor a future Honor Flight. He said that donation alone will go toward taking 30-35 veterans to the nation’s capital.
“As great this work is, we need resources and finances to make it happen,” Ferrell said. “Each veteran probably costs $500 or more to take depending on when we go.”
“That was an extremely generous donation, and I know I’m grateful and I’m sure all those veterans who will have the opportunity to fly and experience their Honor Flight will be grateful was well,” he continued.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ferrell said all previously scheduled Honor Flights were postponed until next year.
“It’s been a tough year because we couldn’t go in 2020, but we’re looking forward to 2021,” he said.
Anyone interested in participating in a future trip can fill out an application on the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight Hub website.