Reflection and celebration: REV Honors Military Community

For the second year in a row, REV has joined Honor Flight to support its mission of recognizing and honoring the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. Honor Flight is a national nonprofit organization comprised of 128 independent hubs across the country that make up the national Honor Flight Network. The network’s mission is to celebrate America’s World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War-era veterans by affording them a day of reflection in our nation’s capital.

This year, REV teamed up with Honor Flight of the Cape Fear Area (HFCA), to provide three veterans with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On April 20, 2024, a chartered American Airlines flight departed from Wilmington International Airport, with 75 veterans, 73 guardians, and a small team of medical personnel and support staff on board. Among the veterans were two from World War II, 12 from the Korean War, and the remaining 61 from the Vietnam and Cold War-eras.

With military origins dating back almost 70 years on Charleston Air Force Base, REV had the privilege of also providing support in the form of three REV guardian volunteers. Each guardian was paired with a veteran to offer one-on-one support, looking out for the veterans’ safety, and overall comfort throughout the day.

One of the REV guardians on hand was Chief Operating Officer Tara Smith, who is deeply familiar with the sacrifices asked of those in our armed forces. Smith’s husband served 30 years in the Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate.

“When you are active duty or a veteran, the respect of the military given to those that serve and to their families is so heartwarming, something the civilian sector will never experience,” Smith said. “The military understands the sacrifice of those serving and the families they leave behind to accomplish their mission. It gives me a deeper appreciation for those that wear the cloth of the nation and step up to do what many of us won’t.”

Smith’s son is currently serving in the Navy as an LTJG Aviation Pilot.

The group’s itinerary for the day included stops at the World War II Memorial, the United States Navy Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korea War Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and finally, Arlington National Cemetery to watch the changing of the guard.

For Army veteran John Hacker, who served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, the memorials are a bittersweet reminder of the sacrifices made by America’s fallen heroes.

“At the Vietnam Wall, there are 58,000 names on that wall, and these are veterans who gave their lives for our country,” Hacker said. “REV and several of us, our businesses, may not even be here if it hadn’t been for these sacrifices, so it’s a reminder of how precious our life is and how precious our veterans are.”

HFCFA estimates that each trip costs $100,000, which is funded through donations from the public, businesses, and institutions like REV. As an all-volunteer and 501(c)(3) organization, HFCFA relies on the service of hundreds of volunteers, from the planning phase to the day of the flight, to make the entire operation possible.

“Our annual budget is approximately $120,000, and HFCFA relies on the generosity of those who want to join us in honoring our veterans,” said HFCFA Founder and President Ruth Ravitz Smith. “REV’s support, not only financially but also through volunteers and recognition, has been a tremendous boost to us, allowing us to pull off this remarkable day.”

For many of the veterans, the day was a long-due opportunity to reconnect with their past and with each other. For REV, it was perfect alignment with continuing to bring the community together and in honoring its military past while progressively serving generations to come.

“When you wear a uniform or even on a day like today in D.C., so many Americans stop to say thank you,” Smith said. “It reassures our veterans that they’ve chosen a path of service that many of us appreciate them standing up for. Many service members were never welcomed home properly when they returned from war. This flight gives them the respect they deserved back then.”

And it was a proper welcome home this time around as active duty military, family, friends, and additional REV team members gathered inside the airport, cheering and holding up signs in an orchestra of appreciation and support for the veterans on their return.

For more information on the Honor Flight Network and how REV builds resilient communities, please visit

Check out the video below to learn more!