Members of the public are asked to welcome home veterans as they return from Central Missouri Honor Flight's first trip of 2018.
Honor flights, funded through donations, allow thousands of veterans across the country to visit memorials built in Washington, D.C., to honor their service and sacrifice.
There are to be 110 veterans — 90 from the Vietnam War and 20 from the Korean War — on the next trip leaving Central Missouri. Of those, 16 are from the Jefferson City area.
The veterans are scheduled to depart by bus at 1:45 a.m. Thursday from Columbia and return at 9:30 p.m. the same day.
Because of the generosity of people in Central Missouri, CMHF has been able to offer six flights per year, said Shelley Becker, the organization's communications coordinator. Thursday's trip will be the 51st the organization has held since 2009. About 500 veterans are on a waiting list for the flights.
Most of the area's WWII veterans have made the trip, Becker said.
"It was wonderful to be able to see that age group — the Greatest Generation — making the journey," she said. "We've taken most of them."
The public is encouraged to gather at Courtyard Marriott, 3301 Lemone Industrial Drive in Columbia, to welcome the next group back.
The buses will take the veterans to Lambert Airport, where they'll catch an early morning flight to the nation's capital. While there, they will visit memorials dedicated to World War II, Abraham Lincoln, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and women in military service. They will also visit Arlington National Cemetery.
Many participating guardians (volunteers who serve the veterans being honored) are themselves veterans of the Vietnam War and other conflicts.
Those gathered to welcome them back are asked to bring flags and posters to display at the hotel.