The Honor Flight Southern Arizona, that flies veterans to the memorials built in their honor in Washington, D.C., is facing a new kind of battle. The local group had to cancel their upcoming flight for June, because they don’t have the funding to pull off the trip.

If you’re familiar with the Honor Flights, you understand the last thing anyone would want, is for these flights to end.

“It would be heartbreaking, it would just be devastating,” said Ed Dunlap. In the 12 years he has been with the Honor Flight Southern Arizona, he has seen the impact these trips have had on more than a thousand veterans.

“If you’re a Vietnam veteran or a Korean veteran or a World War II veteran, and you haven’t been on a flight, go on our website and apply,” Dunlap said. “It is a life changing experience. It really is. I’ve been doing this since 2012 and each flight I go on, it’s different. It’s just amazing.”

A retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corp himself, Dunlap got involved with Honor Flight at one of the only other times the local branch has had to cancel a trip because of a short coming

“I was watching the news,” Dunlap recalled, “and they said they had to cancel flights because they didn’t have enough guardians. So that night I applied, I went on my first flight as a guardian, and I’ve been a team leader on 17 or 18 flights since.”

Now, Dunlap actually coordinates the guardians, who are each paired with a veteran on their trips.

For veteran Ken Unwin, who was a military police officer with the Army in Korea during the Vietnam War, that guardian was his son when they went on the honor flight this past November.

“We’ve never really been anywhere together alone on a trip,” Unwin said. “And this was just a very meaningful and fun weekend for the both of us.”

While the Honor Flight used to make six trips out of Tucson a year, buying tickets on commercial planes, they now charter a plane twice a year, to make sure cancellations don’t leave their veterans stranded across the country.

Dunlap says the cost is about the same, and they still take around the same number of veterans to D.C. each year. Between the plane, hotels, food, and buses, each trip now runs about $200,000.

While the guardians pay $1,200 of their own money, for the veterans it’s completely free.

“I don’t think a lot of them would go if they had to pay to go on a trip to see the memorials,” Dunlap said.

That’s something he doesn’t want to have to imagine, especially knowing what these trips do for veterans like Unwin.

“You know, there was a lot of laughter and there were a lot of tears, because a lot of memories come back to these people, especially the ones that were in Vietnam,” Unwin explained. “It was great to see the Vietnam wall again, which was really meaningful to many of these guys that were on the trip with us. I was just so happy to leave on Veterans Day last year. And so the next one might be on Veterans Day.”

Even without any federal or state funding, that’s the hope: to bring back the Honor Flight in November, as long as they can raise the money they need.

“Typically we have been able to raise it through grants and some rather large donations,” Dunlap said. “And we’re confident that some of those will come in, and we’ve applied for more grants.”

If you ever witness an Honor Flight arriving home, one moment you’re almost guaranteed to see, is the Vietnam Veterans talking about how different the reception is, compared to the first time they came home.

They were spit on when they came home from the war, but so many say arriving home to an Honor Flight celebration, is incredibly healing.

If you would like help support the Honor Flight Southern Arizona, you can donate on their website.