The University of Kentucky will become the first university in the country to sponsor an Honor Flight, taking nearly 70 veterans on an all-expense paid trip to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
Although not typically part of a university’s academic mission, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university was approached by Honor Flight officials several months ago.
“Given our land-grant history — and the opportunity to honor those who have given so much to our country — we were excited about the opportunity to be the first university in the country to sponsor an Honor Flight,” Blanton said.
The trip will cost the university about $75,000, although that money was privately raised, officials said.
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The flight will leave early Saturday morning from Blue Grass Airport and return around 9 p.m. that night. Many of the veterans going are UK alumni, retirees and family members of current UK faculty and staff. UK President Eli Capilouto and Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Brigadier General (retired) Norman Arflack will also be on the flight.
The Honor Flight Network started in 2005 as a way to help veterans see the memorials for conflicts in which they fought.
A sendoff ceremony will be held at 6:45 a.m. and a welcome home ceremony will be held when the flight lands around 9 p.m.. The day’s itinerary includes visits to the Iwo Jima Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.
“For more than a decade, the Honor Flight program has transported more than 100,000 veterans to Washington, D.C. and this flight marks the first such opportunity for a university to show its gratitude to our veterans for their service and sacrifice,” said Capilouto.