BURRILLVILLE – A local veteran will be among those on a Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight headed to Washington, DC next week free of charge to visit national memorials dedicated to honor service and sacrifice.
A lifelong Burrillville resident, George Ducharme served as an Army sergeant in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954, leaving with an honorable discharge. He will be accompanied on his trip to Washington by Harrisville Fire Chief Michael Gingell on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization that aims to recognize American veterans with free trips to the nation’s capital. The Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight has served as a hub for the larger organization since 2012, transporting local veterans on flights out of T.F. Green Airport.
George Farrell, founder and chairman of the Rhode Island-based hub was the fire chief in Providence when he first witnessed an Honor Flight in 2010.
“I said, whatever that is, I want to be part of it,” Farrell told NRI NOW, pointing out the urgency of providing the service to an ever-aging population of veterans from America’s conflicts.
“Our country has beautiful monuments in Washington, DC to honor our veterans, and most of our veterans never get to see these monuments,” said Farrell. “We started the honor flight to give them the opportunity to visit even if they have medical and transportation issues.
Veterans on the Honor Flights are accompanied by both a guardian and a medical team.
Since its inception, RIFCHF has taken 21 Honor Flights, transporting some 479 World War II veterans, 99 Korean War veterans and five Vietnam War veteran to visit the memorials.
On September 14, Ducharme’s journey will begin at 4 a.m. when a caravan of first responders escorting the travelers departs from the Wright’s Farm Restaurant parking lot.
He’ll join a group of 25 other veterans from the area, along with their guardians, on Honor Flight X-Ray. Farrell said Ducharme’s flight includes 13 veterans from the Korean War, 11 World War II veterans, and one veteran who served in Vietnam.
While in D.C., Ducharme and Gingell will visit the Korean War monument, the World War II monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington Cemetery, before returning to Rhode Island the same day.
“We hope there’ll be some people there to greet us when we come back,” said Gingell, noting that the goal is to also return to Burrillville with a caravan of friends, supporters and first responders.
“It’s well deserved,” Gingell said of the trip.