Courtesy Jeffrey Rosenking
Onlookers in Washington, D.C., rushed to greet and photograph the veterans at the Washington Monument during an Honor Flight trip in June 2012.
Jeffrey Rosenking never leaves home without a brochure. Wherever he is, if he spots an elderly man or woman in military garb, Rosenking will introduce himself and hand them a pamphlet for Honor Flight Long Island, an organization for which he has volunteered since 2010, which sends World War II veterans to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., free of charge.
Honor Flight Long Island is part of the Honor Flight Network, which boasts 127 hubs in 41 states — including nine in New York. The organization was created in 2005 by Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain, to provide World War II veterans with one final mission: to see the memorial that was created for them.
The memorial opened to the public in 2004, nearly 60 years after the war ended. It is on the National Mall, with the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. Its 56 granite pillars surround 24 bronze panels depicting wartime scenes.
But because the youngest surviving veterans of the war are now in their mid- to late 80s, most have yet to see it. Only veterans who were deployed during the war and who have never seen the memorial are accepted on Honor Flight trips. According to the Honor Flight website, however, its mission will soon expand to include Korean and Vietnam War veterans as well.
The organization makes the trip two or three times per year, said Rosenking, 52, a Salisbury resident for 20 years who has flown on four Honor Flight trips. He serves as a “guardian,” assisting and caring for the veterans throughout the day. With its most recent flight in September, the Long Island chapter surpassed a milestone, having flown more than 1,000 veterans to D.C. And since 2007, the Honor Flight network as a whole has flown more than 120,000 veterans, according to Rosenking.