LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – With COVID-19 restrictions easing, plans are back in place to fly veterans out of the Coulee Region to our nation’s capitol.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff tells us about the return of Freedom Honor Flights.

To date, more than 2100 veterans have flown to the nation’s capitol through Freedom Honor Flight since 2008.

Now, flights on September 11th and October 9th will add to that number.

“These will be our 25th and 26th flights to take our veterans out to Washington D.C. to see the memorials in their honor,” Freedom Honor Flight Board President Ryan Clark said.

The flights will be the first to take place since 2019.

Clark says Freedom Honor Flight continually monitored COVID protocols in the hopes of getting flights back up and running.

“We continued to plan the possibility of having flights in 2021 even while restrictions from the National Honor Flight Program were telling us that we didn’t know when we were going to be open,” Clark said. “I think for all of us, we’re so passionate about this organization and about honoring our veterans so being able to fly again is a great feeling.”

The organization normally holds one flight in spring and one in fall, but the National Honor Flight Network wouldn’t let flights resume until after August 16th.

Because of the unique circumstances, the two flights will be closer together than they’ve ever been.

“If we were able to fly this year, we wanted to be able to get as many veterans as we safely could out to D.C.,” Clark explained.

There will be COVID guidelines in-place for the flights, as all participants are required to be fully vaccinated to fly.

Freedom Honor Flight Board Vice-President Kevin Kuchar says the organization will be flexible with those who may have reservations about the vaccine.

“We respect their personal opinions as far as vaccinations and so forth, and if they are not comfortable flying with us, we will certainly differ them to a flight next year when hopefully the COVID requirements aren’t as strict,” Kuchar said.

Masks will also be mandatory at airports, while on the airplane, and when required by specific memorials or locations in Washington D.C.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

Calls are going out to the 30 counties served by freedom honor flight.

The organization’s waiting list includes more than 800 veterans.

More information about Freedom Honor Flight can be found here.