Delight overtakes doubt after veterans take Honor Flight

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Before 91 veterans of World War II board a jet at Midway Airport early Wednesday, before the Southwest pilot powers up the engines and the tower clears the plane for takeoff to Washington, D.C., where they will be heaped with honor and visit a monument to themselves that most have never seen, Lindi Strobel has to answer their questions, calm their fears and coax them aboard that plane.

“I receive from one to 20 calls per day,” says Strobel, a volunteer for Honor Flight Chicago. “On average, seven to 10 a day from veterans who have applied to our program.”

They’re curious, concerned, skeptical. The Honor Flight program, at first glance, can seem too good to be true: Vets of WWII are flown to Washington, given a tour with maximum care and attention, well fed, then taken home? For free? Really? And then there is their own health to think about.

“They’ve received the medical information in the mail, these forms that address questions of potential health issues,” Strobel said. “Doubts start to creep in as to whether or not to go on the trip. My name and phone number go out with the forms. They call the number. They get me. Usually it’s a veteran calling. It might be a spouse, caregiver, niece, nephew, grandchild, neighbor, you name it. The most common concern is: ‘Do you realize how old I am?’ ”

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