Why A Yellow Ribbon Mission?

Since its inception in 2009, Central Missouri Honor Flight has made 29 Honor Flights to Washington, DC, carrying more than 1,800 veterans to the nation’s capital to reflect at their memorials. The majority of those veterans have been WWII veterans. The next largest group has been veterans of the Korean War. And, earlier this year, we began adding veterans of the Vietnam War to our flights as space allowed.

Since the early months of our program, we have been receiving applications for the Honor Flight from central Missouri’s Vietnam veterans. While they completely understand that their applications have been held on a waiting list until CMHF has taken the veterans of the earlier conflicts, many Vietnam War veterans have been waiting many years for their Honor Flight experience. It is now time to honor them in the same manner, with the same recognition and the same celebration that has been afforded the WWII and Korean War veterans.

Most people remember the tumultuous period of the 1960s and 1970s in our nation when it was embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam, fighting to stem the flow of Communism in a vulnerable part of world. The Vietnam War was a highly controversial issue in this nation, and the citizenry was emotionally and politically divided over the issue of America’s involvement in the war. As a result, when the men and women who served in Vietnam returned home, they were ostracized, disrespected and vilified by many Americans who – wrongly – blamed them for the seemingly endless and expensive engagement in Southeast Asia. It was a very dark time in our nation’s history when the sons and daughters of WWII veterans who had secured our liberties were criticized for answering their nation’s call to preserve those same freedoms.

Many Vietnam veterans have struggled to recover from their war experiences and the manner in which they were received in this nation when they returned home. In the minds of many Vietnam veterans, they are still being asked to answer for what our nation’s political leadership asked of them so many decades ago.

CMHF believes it is time to bring light to that dark chapter of our nation’s past. It is time to not only recognize, but honor and commend the men and women who have lived for nearly 40 years with the sadness and bitterness they felt upon their return from the Vietnam War. It is time to replace disgrace with honor and disrespect with celebration.

Veterans who have participated in the Honor Flight have repeatedly told us that the experience allows them to release their negative feelings about their military service, and replace those emotions with pride, joy and satisfaction. One told us, “You have replaced all of my bad memories with good memories of THIS day.” We MUST provide the same opportunity to the veterans of the Vietnam War.

CMHF’s Yellow Ribbon Mission will allow Vietnam War veterans the opportunity to travel together, support one another, collectively remember and emotionally cleanse their personal histories of this difficult time in their lives. None of us can adequately understand what these veterans experienced. But they can understand one another, and it is critical that they be allowed to stand together throughout this celebration of their service.

Many have been waiting since 2009 for their chance to visit their memorial and, in many cases, to see the names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall of those who were left behind in that bloody and costly engagement. We have owed these veterans this tribute for nearly 40 years; it is time to pay that debt.