DENVER – There is a high level of excitement at Denver International Airport when honor flights are departing. For 15 years, Rocky Mountain Honor Flight has been flying veterans to DC to experience the monuments and memorials dedicated to their service.
“It's a lot of gratitude, a lot of tears,” said Dale Goulette, the president of Rocky Mountain Honor Flight. “For a lot of them, it's their first chance to talk to somebody that experienced what they experienced.”
Those conversations are often with people like Joe Winslow, one of the guardians who escort the veterans on their trips.
“A lot of them probably would not have this opportunity without being escorted,” Winslow said.
Winslow made his first trip ten years ago.
“I was a family 'guardian' on my first trip in May of 2012," Winslow said. "I took my father-in-law.”
That trip got Winslow hooked. Eventually, he became the coordinator of all the guardians and this September he took his 29th and final journey with Rocky Mountain Honor Flight.
“This operation would not be what it is without Joe,” Goulette added. “The guardians are the ones that will be roommates with the veterans and push the wheelchairs just do whatever we needed them to do.”
The trips are short. On this journey, the group left for DC on a Thursday, spent Friday visiting the memorials and monuments, and traveled to Arlington National Cemetery Saturday morning before flying back to Denver.
“I know, speaking from personal experience, this is going to be such a meaningful experience for them,” said fellow guardian Danny Tomlinson.
After a decade of helping out, Winslow said he will miss not being a part of Rocky Mountain Honor Flight, but he said it’s time for a change.
“It's time to let some younger people do it,” he said with a smile. “I'm older than some of these veterans. Time to let some of the younger guys do it.”
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