LEWISTON, Maine — Honor Flight Maine is looking for a few good men and women to help do the work of celebrating Maine’s veterans.
The all-volunteer group has been taking veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the nation’s war and military memorials since 2014.
By the end of this year, which will feature a total of six flights, Honor Flight Maine leaders say they will have carried more than 500 veterans in all.
But now the group is asking for help to do the work and to find more veterans.
Honor Flight Maine chairperson Laurie Sidelinger said they’re in serious need of more volunteers to help with the many details that are essential to successful trips.
"The sendoff in the morning at the jetport, the preparation leading up to it," she said, and much more.
“We need people to sterilize wheelchairs. ... There are phone calls upon phone calls to veterans, screening to make sure nothing has changed since they applied, to check up phone calls, [and] making sure the family has transportation to get them there."
Sidelinger said they have a core group of 30 to 40 volunteers and have just started getting some help from staff members at TD Bank and Walmart but need more.
At the same time, they are urgently seeking more of Maine’s oldest veterans, those from the World War II and Korean War eras, to go on Honor Flight Maine trips.
Sidelinger said at this point, the trip at the end of July will only have one WWII veteran, with nearly all the others being from the Vietnam era.
Jerry DeWitt of the Lewiston/Auburn Veterans Council, who has made an HFM trip himself, said the need to find World War II veterans is urgent because they are all in their 90s with only about 400 still living in Maine. Most Korean War veterans are also 90, or close to it.
“We need to have the veterans from that era come out and say, 'I'd like to go,'” DeWitt said Friday.
“And we need to tell them we have the ability to take them," he said. "Even though you may have some physical disability, need a wheelchair, we can accommodate a lot of those things.”
The key, he said, is reaching out to families so they will get their veterans connected with the organization to make a trip.
For veterans and potential volunteers, the contact process is the same through the group’s website, which has a phone number, and other contact information.
DeWitt said most American Legion posts can also connect veterans with Honor Flight Maine.