Are Honor Flights Actually About Making Us Feel Better?

The Long March
Retired Army Air Corps Sgt. James White, World War II veteran, looks on at the Joint Service Color Guard present the colors during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2014. The World War II veterans were from all branches of the military.
U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Antwaun Jefferson

Editor’s note: The Long March will be closed for inventory the month of August. We regret any inconvenience this causes our loyal customers. In an effort to keep you reasonably content and focussed, we are offering re-runs of some of the best columns of the year. We value your custom and hope you will stick around for . . . the Long March.


The other day as I passed through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, I saw an Honor Flight group deplane. In this instance, it was 187 Korean and Vietnam vets flying into D.C. from Appleton, Wisconsin, to see the memorials and generally take a last lap of honor.

Passengers hurrying to their departure gates paused to clap. I think I even saw one businessman wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. It was straight out of a Budweiser commercial.

Fine, as far as all that goes. I agree with the impulse to demonstrate gratitude, especially toward vets of Korea and Vietnam.

But what worries me is that this sort of ceremony falls into the category of momentarily honoring older vets while ignoring newer ones, and the ongoing wars in which they fought, most of the time. In other words, are we doing this because it is the right thing to do, or because it makes us feel better? If we really cared, would there be as many homeless vets sleeping in Walmart parking lots?

What I mean by that is that, as a nation, we have offloaded our wars of the last 17 years onto 1 percent of the nation. We have put them through repeated rotations, giving them far more exposure to days and months of hypertensive, adrenaline-pumping situations than any World War II vets underwent. We know from World War II what 150 days of combat exposure does to the human mind. We really don’t know what 2,000 days of worrying about mortar fire and roadside bombs does. But we are finding out.

So, are Honor Flights what we do in order not to pay attention to what is really going on? The more applause I hear in airports, the more suspicious I become. As Phil Klay writes in the May issue of The Atlantic: “America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.” (Klay also had a piece in the Sunday New York Times that I also would quote, but it quotes a guest column that ran here by Mackenzie Wolf, so that would be too circular.)

Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

Read More Show Less

VISTA —An Iraq war veteran who said he killed a stranger in Oceanside at the behest of a secret agency that controlled his brain was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The sentence for Mikhail Schmidt comes less than a month after a Superior Court jury in North County found Schmidt guilty of first-degree murder of Jacob Bravo, a stranger that Schmidt spotted, followed and stabbed to death on March 8, 2017.

Read More Show Less

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Strongsville woman convicted of fleecing an ailing Korean War veteran out of much of his life savings was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison.

Latasha Wisniewski, 38, feigned a sexual interest in Charles Bauer in late 2017 by taking the 88-year-old widower to a plastic surgeon's office and asking him to pay for breast implants. She then withdrew more than $140,000 from Bauer's accounts over the following months, according to court records.

Read More Show Less

Mark Mitchell is stepping down as the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, a position he has held since late June, a defense official confirmed on Tuesday.

No information was immediately available about why Mitchell decided to resign. His last day will be Nov. 1 and he will be replaced by Thomas Alexander, who is currently leading the Defense Department's counternarcotics efforts, the defense official told Task & Purpose.

Read More Show Less
Photo: West Point

The U.S. Military Academy identified a cadet who has been missing since Friday evening as 20-year-old Kade Kurita.

A search began for Kurita after he failed to report for a scheduled military skills competition around 5:30pm on Friday. West Point officials said in the Tuesday press release that he is believed to still be nearby.

Read More Show Less