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Honor Flight Southern Arizona: Giving veterans a chance to heal old wounds

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 05, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — With our monthly KGUN 9 Giving Project, we bring you stories of Southern Arizona nonprofits that change lives for the better—but are in need of community support in order to continue their work of giving back.

That's the case with this month's nonprofit, the Honor Flight Southern Arizona, a group that flies U.S. military veterans to Washington D.C. to visit memorials dedicated to their service. For some, it's their first time at the national memorials. For others, the trips bring closure, and a sense of peace.

The Honor Flight is in need of both volunteers and donations at this time, having already canceled this month's planned flight to Washington D.C. due to a lack of funds.

We first told you the story of funding issues for Honor Flight Southern Arizona two weeks ago. The organization had to cancel not only the June trip this year, but another as well—keeping them from fulfilling their mission.

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"We honor them by taking them back and spending a day going around to the memorials that were built in their honor," says Ed Dunlap, a retired Marine and member of the board of Honor Flight Southern Arizona.

He says with costs covered by grants and by donations, veterans don't pay a thing for the Honor Flight.

"When we charter a flight it's about $220,000," Dunlap tells me. "But everything's covered—flight, hotels, meals—while we're gone, the buses to take us into D.C."

Gate Briseno turns 93 this month. He took the Honor Flight a couple years back.

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Korean War veteran Gate Briseno took the Honor Flight to D.C. in 2022.

"I was one of the lucky ones. I survived it all without a mark," says Briseno, recalling his time in the midst of some of the fiercest fighting in the Korean War.

"Many of my friends, and some of the guys I led, didn't."

Briseno came home from Korea and after that never talked about his time in the Army. That changed in recent years, after joining a Korean War veterans group and taking his Honor Flight in March of 2022.

He recalls seeing the Korean War Memorial in the nation's capital:

"When I first saw it I just couldn't help it. Every one of their names and every one of my buddies who lived and died were there.

"The hair on the back of my neck stood up and tears started running down. I could not help it."
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The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Briseno calls the Honor Flight a cathartic experience for him and other veterans who make the trip. He's adamant about continuing the Honor Flights out of Tucson, with so many veterans living right here in Southern Arizona.

"A great organization to donate to," Briseno tells me. "Even I donate because that's how important it was to me. It helped me get over something that had been welling up in me for 70 years."

They're now planning for their next trip in November around Veterans Day.

If you'd like to help get Honor Flight Southern Arizona back in the air, the group is accepting donations here on their website.

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Your Giving Project donation qualifies for Arizona's charitable tax credit.

Our partners in the Giving Project, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, will again match the first $500 in donation.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


The Giving Project



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TOTAL TO DATE - $92,948.97

The Giving Project wants to identify local nonprofits that address community needs to spotlight a new nonprofit every month. Email details and contact information to