A retired rocket scientist. A man who met U.S. Army General
Douglas MacArthur. A man who saw the first hydrogen bomb
detonate at Bikini Atoll. A man who was part of the 10th Mountain
Division Ski Patrol in the Italian Alps.
Who are these interesting men?
They are all veterans whom CCMH Emergency Care Physician Scott Diering
recently met as he participated in what he called an experience of a lifetime—Rocky
Mountain Honor Flight.
The Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit that carries veterans
to Washington, D.C. to visit monuments and memorials built to commemorate
their service. The network has transported more than 81,000 veterans since
it began in 2005. The Rocky Mountain Honor Flight, established in 2007,
is one of the more than 100 “hubs” in the network.
Dr. Diering learned of the group while strolling through a community fair
in Denver two years prior. “I asked what the group was about, and
when the attendant at the booth told me what Rocky Mountain Honor Flight
was doing, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. He completed
an application to become a medical director for one of the trips.
As medical director, Dr. Diering was responsible for the oxygen and the
overall health of 31 veterans, whose ages ranged from 83-96 years old.
In addition, 22 guardians made the trip helped the veterans get around
While in D.C., the group visited:
• Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns
• Korean War Veterans Memorial
• President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
• Seabees of the United States Navy Memorial
• U.S. Air Force Memorial
• U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
• U.S. Navy Memorial with a special presentation at the Lone Sailor Statue
• Vietnam Veterans Memorial
• and the World War II Memorial
The group was easy to distinguish from other tourists—the guardians
were in blue, while the veterans were in red. “People would walk
up to the veterans and shake their hands and thank them for their service
to our country,” Dr. Diering said. “And the veterans were
so humble about it—many of them would say, ‘I only did what
anyone else would do.’”
According to the Rocky Mountain Honor Flight’s website, rockymountainhonorflight.org,
special attention is given to the World War II memorial. Dedicated in
2004, the memorial was built to honor 16 million Americans during World
War II; however, it is primarily inaccessible to most veterans because
of their age, health, and financial status, among others. It is estimated
that less than 1.2
million are alive today.
To participate, members must complete applications. Veterans who are selected
are flown on a “first-come, first-served basis” with top priority
given to World War II veterans and those with terminal illness—second
priority is to Korean War veterans and then Vietnam War veterans. Dr.
Diering has submitted an application to participate again.
“I felt very privileged to take care of these gentlemen on this
trip,” he said. “After all that they have done for this country,
I felt like it was the least I could do to show my
appreciation for their sacrifice.”