RI Honor Flight chairman dedicates life to giving veterans once-in-a-lifetime trips to Washington, DC

Street Stories

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been nearly a decade since the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Association began connecting local veterans with the national monuments dedicated to their service.

And none of it would be possible without George Farrell.

The Rhode Island Honor Flight is a huge part of the retired Providence fire chief’s life.

Since 2012, the 66-year-old has traveled to the nation’s capital 25 times with hundreds of Rhode Island’s World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.

“They’re all special,” Farrell said of the trips. “Every veteran is different, every flight is different. The experiences we’ve all had are different.”

Farrell organized Rhode Island Honor Flight after coming across one while inside the Baltimore Washington International Airport.

As he watched the veterans ceremoniously make their way through the airport, he knew it was something he wanted to take on locally.

“This is a unique experience, where [the veterans’] families give you that privilege, or they do,” Farrell said.

It hasn’t always been easy for Farrell, who’s currently in clinical remission. Farrell said while he’s been battling leukemia and kidney disease for several years, he’s refused to let either illness stop him from doing what he loves.

“You can look through a camera, you can look through your phone, you can snap a picture, but you can’t [really] see it,” Farrell said. “You can be part of that history while you’re there.”

“World War II ended in 1946 and here we are, all these years later, with these veterans who will tell you what it was like being on a mine sweep, who will tell you what it was like being there on D-Day,” he continued. Where else are you going to get that experience? We get that kind of experience through them, and it’s great.”

Honor Flights “Yankee” and “Zulu” were postponed last year due to the pandemic, but both groups finally got their chance to visit Washington, D.C., this past weekend.

Anyone interested in participating in a future trip can fill out an application online.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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