Journey Of Honor: Warsaw Man Travels To Washington, D.C.


Warsaw native and United States Veteran Rick Fajen recently traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight of the Ozarks program.

The Honor Flight program is a private not for profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for their many sacrifices. Today there are 128 regional hubs in the United States.

Fajen served from 1962 until 1964 and was stationed in Korea. He traveled on the Honor Flight with 80 other veterans and his son, David.

“I hurt my knees just days before the flight so I had to use a wheelchair to get around Washington, D.C., but it was still worth it to go, despite the pain,” said Fajen.

Honor Flight first flew on May 2005 with six small planes flying twelve WWII veterans, departing from Springfield, Ohio. In 2006, with a rapidly expanding waiting list, the program transitioned to commercial airline carriers to accommodate more veterans. That same year, Honor Flight partnered with Honor Air in Hendersonville, North Carolina and Hero Flight in Provo, Utah, to establish the national Honor Flight Network which has expanded aggressively to include cities across the nation. By 2007, official network hubs had been established in 12 cities to localize community commitment, operational planning and fund raising.

Fajen left on his flight from Springfield, MO, at 5:00 AM and spent the day in Washington, D.C. visiting war memorials. The Honor group visited the WWII, Korea and Vietnam Memorials, as well as the FDR Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. One of the highlights was witnessing the changing of the guard.

“Everywhere we went, people applauded and shook our hands to thank us for our service,” said Fajen. “I have never seen so many friendly people.”

Since its beginning, the Honor Flight has taken 23,045 veterans to Washington, D.C. to give them the opportunity to visit the memorials placed there in honor of veterans. Of those veterans, 1,987 were veterans of World War II; 6,176 were from the Korean War; 13,070 were from the Vietnam War and 1,812 were from other conflicts.

“When we arrived back in Springfield very late at night, there were government officials, friends and family there to greet us,” said Fajen. “I was amazed at the size of the crowd that late at night. My wife had called up our family and friends to come to the airport to welcome us home. One man I talked to on the flight said that when he came back from Vietnam in the ‘60's, he didn’t get this kind of a greeting, instead people were throwing garbage at the vets. He said this flight made him feel special.”

According to Fajen it was a very special day.

"I appreciate everyone who made this trip possible," said Fajen.