People that go on these trips have no idea what they are going to experience. Looking at it in pictures doesn’t tell you the whole story.Jerry Maennche
RINCON — A fundraising effort for Honor Flight Savannah is ready for takeoff.
Jerry Maennche, a former Springfield City Council member and ardent Honor Flight supporter, is set to start collecting donations for the non-profit charitable organization that is dedicated to transporting America’s veterans, at no cost to them, to Washington D. C., so that they may visit the memorials built and dedicated to honoring their sacrifices in past wars.
“I don’t know that people understand how many veterans we have in this county,” Maennche said. “I think it’s time that the community gave something back to them and it’s not going to cost them a whole lot. Whatever they can donate is appreciated.”
Honor Flight trips have been suspended for nearly two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One is slated April 22-24, 2022, however.
“I want to hit all the businesses in the county and get them to participate in Honor Flight fundraising” Maennche said. “Before it all died out, I was pretty fortunate to get a few businesses to contribute. Being that we’ve been down for a couple years, I want to wake everybody back up.
“When people see me coming through the door, I want them to understand why I am there. I don’t know how it’s going to work. I’m not much of a salesman but this is something that I believe in so I am going to try.”
A Vietnam War veteran, Maennche took his initial Honor Flight trip in 2016. He immediately fell in love with the organization and became an advisor. He served as a guardian and photographer on subsequent trips.
Guardians, who pay their own way on Honor Flight trips, ensure that every veteran has a safe, memorable experience. Each Honor Flight veteran has one.
“People that go on these trips have no idea what they are going to experience,” Maennche said. “Looking at it in pictures doesn’t tell you the whole story. When you see it, you won’t believe it.”
Savannah Honor Flight is one of 140 Honor Flight network regional hubs. The hubs have combined to escort nearly 250,000 World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to see their memorials.
Savannah Honor Flight participants are given a rousing sendoff from military personnel at Hunter Army Airfield.
“When we got out of the service, where we had been and what we had done were not popular,” Springfield’s 91-year Herb Jones said after a 2019 Honor flight trip. “I just kept my mouth shut and went back to school and kept going. This was the first time — at the reception before we left — that I ever remember that the military of that time was recognized.
“We had over 300 active military people there to send us off. It was the first time since I got out of the service in 1952 that people in the uniform that I wore were there. If you think that’s not emotional to see people in the uniform for the first time in that length of time ...
“The people that recognized us and took us on this trip kind of filled a gap of over fifty years.”
The sendoff is the initial stage of a packed schedule that includes stops at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the U.S. Navy Museum & Memorial, the U.S. Air Force Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Women in Military Service to America Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Flight participants spend two nights in a quality hotel before arriving back in Savannah.
“There was no wasted time in it,” Springfield’s Irwin Malphrus, a Vietnam War veteran said after his 2019 Honor Flight trip. “We were doing something as we went from one memorial to the other all the way through the day.”
Honor Flight veterans even got to meet high-ranking military officials.
“There is a big change in (the veterans’) attitudes from the time we leave until the time we get back,” Maennche said. “It’s a day and night difference. Their chests are pumped out and it’s awesome.
“There are a lot of good veterans organizations out there and I respect them, but this one takes the veterans brings them into the spotlight and celebrates them.”
Honor Flight participants are in good medical hands. A few doctors and nurses always accompany the group.
“It’s a good thing,” said Springfield’s Johnny Boston, who served in the Army in Vietnam. “I think every veteran should go.”
Honor Flight Savannah is a 501(c3) nonprofit corporation (EIN26-3467546). All donations are tax deductible and will be acknowledged by a letter.
Maenneche can be reached by phone at (912) 663-0322 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.