Honor Flight of Central Oregon (HFCO) postponed their annual flight to Washington, D.C. amid concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veterans from Central Oregon were slated to depart May 6 for the four-day trip. World War II and Korean War veterans, 22 in total, would tour the U.S. Capitol, memorials, and monuments on an all-expenses-paid trip.

HFCO observed the growing pandemic two weeks prior to making the decision and carefully considered their options. Dane Prevatt, the trip organizer, stated his concerns over exposing the high-risk age group to the virus.

“Safety of our veterans is our number-one priority,” he said. “We couldn’t risk exposing our most susceptible generation to this virus.”

The HFCO board was summoned to find a solution on March 8, and made the decision to postpone the trip until October 14 of this year. Three days later, on March 11, the national organization announced the postponement of all national Honor Flights to Washington, D.C. That same day the CDC officially labeled the coronavirus a “pandemic,” and Washington, D.C. confirmed cases of the virus within the city.

With HFCO having a connecting flight in Seattle — ground zero for COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — the risk was too high according to Prevatt and the trip doctor, Dr. Jana Van Amburg.

The response to the change in plans was met with understanding. Local veterans, upon receiving the news, were relieved with the decision. Prevatt says many were nervous about the outbreak. Vendors, airlines, and hotels also worked together to adjust reservations and expressed their continuing support for the trip now in October.

Hal Busch, a Sisters resident and Coast Guard veteran, was “ready to go” but “glad they canceled,” he said.

“You’ve grown up your whole life reading about that place, and to see it would have finished that chapter in my life,” he said. “That was on my bucket list.”

Now, Busch doesn’t know if he’ll make the October trip but hopes he’ll find himself writing that chapter this fall.