Alaska veterans travel to D.C. on first Honor Flight since start of pandemic

Alaska Airlines Last Frontier Honor Flight

Veterans participating in the Last Frontier Honor Flight boarded an Alaska Airlines plane at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Tuesday, as the program resumed flights for the first time after a 2 1/2-year hiatus during the pandemic. Twenty-three military veterans from the Korean War and Vietnam War traveled to Washington, D.C., to view their memorials dedicated to honor their services and sacrifices.

Among them were 90-year-old Korean War and Vietnam War veteran Bobby Tucker Sr. and his son, Vietnam War veteran Bobby Tucker Jr., 69. As the two U.S. Air Force veterans waited to board a flight, Tucker Sr. said of his son, “I’m glad to get to go with him. It will probably be one of the last things we do together and enjoy.”

Alaska Airlines Last Frontier Honor Flight

“This is the first Honor Flight since 2013 there isn’t a World War II veteran,” said president Randy Kimpton. “It’s an amazing program because it allows the veterans to heal. They went and served, which allows us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. Almost none of them received a thank you. There was nothing. Many of them just went back to work. We will see as many memorials as possible: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Roosevelt Memorial.”

“We (The Last Frontier) are one of 125 hubs around the United States,” said Kimpton. “Nationally we broke 250,000 at the beginning of the year,” referring to the number of veterans who have taken part in the Honor Flight. “We still have a lot of Vietnam vets that we need to get back,” added Kimpton.

There will be a homecoming at the airport at 4 p.m. Saturday. Kimpton said, “Anybody and everybody that wants to come out. There will be a band and speakers and a chance to personally say thank you to one of these veterans.”

Alaska Airlines Last Frontier Honor Flight

Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News.