Bloomington vet takes part in first-ever, all-female Illinois Honor Flight

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Since 2005, honor flights have been flying thousands of veterans to Washington D.C.

This past Wednesday, Honor Flight Chicago made history in the state of Illinois with the first all-female honor flight.

Operation HERstory flew 93 Illinois veterans from Chicago to Washington Wednesday. All were women with different stories, but all were a part of making history.

Bloomington veteran, Kathryn Rutledge, said it’s a day she will never forget.

“People are saying you’re going to have such a wonderful day, it’s going to be beyond your imagination, and it was,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge and 92 other women, from all five military branches, flew on Honor Flight Chicago’s 98th honor flight. Rutledge said she started her day at 4 a.m. and did not get back to Bloomington until 10 p.m.

In D.C. the group toured monuments and memorials from all the wars and made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery to see the Women In Military Service For America Memorial as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“It is gorgeous. It carries so much history for female veterans and how they’ve progressed in serving through time,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge, a Vietnam-war veteran, and her self-described 92 “sisters” represented all wars as early as WWII.

“We’re all sisters, and each one had their own experience of what they did in service. You shared stories and made new friends and the whole excitement was beyond the imagination,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge said women were in the military more than most people give them credit for, and were more than just nurses or administration.

“Most people think of women in the military; they do the paperwork, and they’re the nurses, and we’re not that anymore. We’re pilots, we’re machinists,” Rutledge said. “You pretty much name it, we’re it.”

Rutledge said if you’re a veteran and have not been on an honor flight, it’s definitely worth the trip.

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