Veterans Virtual Reality Honor Flight

Correspondent: Hilary Lane

Every year, thousands of veterans take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to our nation’s capital. Now new technology is making sure no one is left behind.

Retired U.S. Navy admiral Jim Hart leads hundreds of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans from Florida to Washington on a free one-day trip called Honor Flight. They visit the memorials built to honor those who served. “They came home. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare. They were never really honored for what they have done,” says Hart, who is the president of Space Coast Honor Flight.

But, with many vets now in their 80s and 90s, it’s difficult for some to make the trip. So Honor Flight teamed up with Hospice of St. Francis and with the help of virtual reality, they’re making sure every veteran can experience the trip, even if it’s from their living room.

89-year-old John Schultz, who served in the Korea

n War, was diagnosed with a lung disease and relies on an oxygen tank to breathe, making it impossible to fly. 360-degree, 3D video of an Honor Flight trip uploaded to goggles allows Schultz to take part without ever leaving the ground. He says it was remarkable to put on the glasses and be transported to Washington D.C. from his couch. “The technology today is overwhelming,” he says.

Schultz’s daughter Audrey Robertson says her father never talked about his service growing up. “It’s kind of a memory that’s locked away but I could see it, it came out today and that was really, that was really special,” she says. Schultz says the experience brought back some powerful emotions like pride and grief. “I lost friends, I had people dying right alongside of me, you know,” he says.

“It’s somewhat cathartic in that it helps them get through the suffering and the pain that they’re dealing with now,” Hart says. It’s helping veterans like Schultz feel like he’s part of the tribute, even if it’s from a distance.