Operation HerStory: Illinois’ first female honor flight leaves this October

Local News

NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Since 2005 veterans from all over the U.S. have been taking part in the Honor Flight. It gives vets the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and visit the memorials that honor the service and sacrifices of all military members.

The flight ends with a celebration at the airport, where community members come out and thank the heroes for their service. Giving them a kind of welcome back they may have never received after serving.

For years men in Illinois have boarded the Honor Flights, leaving from Peoria and Chicago. However, men aren’t the only ones who have served. So a Twin Cities woman is taking it upon herself to create another flight, this time just for the female veterans, giving them a chance to revisit history while also making it.     

“Women have paved the way before me, I want to go honor them and see what our history has been because we have evolved so much,” said Vietnam veteran Kathryn Rutledge.

Rutledge is one of the first people to have signed up for the Illinois’ first female honor flight named ‘Operation HerStory’.

“Women veterans have always been noted as veterans, but they have never been given their dues and honored as some of the men have been, and it’s kind of time that we are,” she said.

The idea came from U.S. Army Veteran, Jill Henry, who went on Illinois second ever Honor Flight with her father. Henry says after going on a trip like that, she knew this was something every vet, no matter their gender, had to experience.

“Our resolve is just as strong as the men who stand among us,” said Henry. “Our tears feel just as hard as theirs do. Everyone deserves to be recognized that has served our country.”

In addition to stopping at the memorials that most honor flights normally visit, Henry says the women will have the chance to see some that may have been overlooked.

“We are going to stop at the Women’s Memorial in Arlington,” said Henry. “Many Honor Flights that are mostly full of men don’t even stop there, and many people aren’t even aware that it exists.”

100 veterans will be able to board the flight leaving in October of this year in Chicago.

“We are going to make history, and that history is being made now,” said Henry.

If you’re interested in participating, or want to help the group secure the funds to make this happen visit their website Operation HerStory.

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