Sister Jody O’Neil accompanies brother on ‘Honor Flight’
For Mike O’Neil, the wait was worth it.
Five years ago, the brother of Sister of Providence Sister Jody O’Neil signed up to take part in the annual Indy Veteran Honor Flight, a flight from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., in which veterans are flown to the nation’s capital and have the opportunity to visit war memorials and more.
Sister Jody said Mike was on a wait list until Vietnam veterans were eligible to take part in the honor flights. And for two additional years, COVID-19 forced postponements of the flights.
However, just before Easter 2022, Sister Jody accompanied her brother as his guardian for the event in addition to 86 other veterans.
“Mike asked me to be his guardian and of course, I was honored,” Sister Jody said. “I am honored to have had this experience with my brother and to have witnessed all the gratitude shown toward him.”
“I was in better health when I first started this,” Mike added. “It has declined but I was ready to go. This has been kind of mind-blowing with all the stuff that has been going on.”
United States Air Force veteran Gary Lawrence was the bus captain for the flight, which included the Vietnam veterans as well as five veterans of World War II and approximately 15 veterans from the Korean War.
Lawrence said he has flown 11 flights through Indy Honor Flight, including twice as a guardian and nine flights as a bus captain.
“This is the single most rewarding volunteer position I’ve ever experienced,” Lawrence said.
The trip took place on Saturday, April 16, as all the veterans, their guardians and others headed to the Indianapolis International Airport for the flight. Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., the trip began, which included stops at the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and then Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard before heading back to Indianapolis.
Family and others were encouraged to meet with all the veterans who took part in the flight following during a celebration which took place at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis.
Mike said the trip was memorable.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “It was like a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I enjoyed the entire thing. Everyone seemed so appreciative of our service. I had people shaking my hand at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Wall. It was great. It was definitely worth it.”
“The behind the scenes attention to detail was significant,” Sister Jody added. “All involved in Indy Honor Flights are volunteers. I had no idea of the magnitude of appreciation that would be expressed that day.
“I welcomed this opportunity to be Mike’s guardian and to learn more specifics of his being drafted into the Army at the age of 18 to engage in basic training and serve in Vietnam. We both left home at the same time as his military experience coincided with my entrance into the Congregation. Mike and his veteran brothers and sisters are indeed a national treasure.”