Honor Flight teamed up with a local football league Saturday to help raise money to send veterans to Washington, D.C. to see war memorials for the first time.
The San Diego Enforcers played the U.S. Marine Corps at Madison High School in Clairemont Mesa Saturday afternoon, but for many of the players, the game was about more than football: it was about giving back.
Arnold Fernands, who served in the Coast Guard and the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, made the trip two years ago.
“I think that every...every veteran should have the opportunity to visit the memorial in Washington D.C. It's a great experience, and I was lucky enough to have made the trip two years ago,” Fernands said.
Julie Brightwell is the Chairman of Honor Flight San Diego. She got involved because her father was a veteran. She helped him make the trip back in 2007.
“It gives them the chance to be thanked,” Brightwell said. “Many of those veterans, they got off the bus, they got off the train, they walked back to the farm. They didn't get a chance to be thanked for their service, and they saved our world."
At halftime, the veterans were introduced like they were taking the field. They received a standing ovation as they walked on.
The program, which started in 2010 in San Diego, has, so far, taken 1,063 vets on the trip. They prioritize older and terminally ill vets.
Joe Reilly, a 95-year-old D-Day Paratrooper, and still fits in his uniform. He was able to do Honor Flight and talked about his experiences.
“It took the American government 59 years to build a memorial to WWII men, but they did a good job,” he said.
All of the ticket sales from Saturday’s game will go toward the Honor Flight organization. They say right now, they still have about 100 veterans on the waiting list, and are looking to raise about $200,000 for their next trip.