Following a letter sent last week from U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the National Park Service has announced they will reinstate police escorts for American veterans traveling to Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight Network. In their letter to Secretary Haaland, the Senators noted that Missouri-based Honor Flights were denied vehicular escort services this year and urged the Secretary to reverse course.
Senator Hawley said, "This is the right decision – these police escorts should have always remained in place. Our veterans are American heroes and they deserve the very best when visiting our nation’s capital."
Senator Blunt said, "The Honor Flight program has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families. One of the incredible privileges of serving in Congress is being able to welcome veterans to the National Mall and thank them for their service. These memorials belong to the veterans they were built to honor. I’m glad the Department of Interior has reversed course and will resume police escorts to ensure Honor Flight travelers can get to their destinations safely and quickly. I would like to thank Honor Flight networks in Missouri and across the nation for bringing attention to this issue and working with us to get it resolved.”
Read the entire response from the National Park Service here and below:
May 2, 2022
The Honorable Josh Hawley
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Hawley:
Thank you for your letter dated April 28, 2022, to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland concerning Honor Flight escorts conducted by the United States Park Police (USPP). In your letter, you requested that the USPP continue to provide law enforcement escorts for Honor Flight visits to Washington, DC. We are happy to report that earlier today, the National Park Service and the Honor Flight Network made a public announcement about their continued work together, a copy of which is enclosed.
This past Friday, leadership from the USPP and the National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA) met with the Honor Flight Network and shared some of our concerns. Prior to The Honor Flight Network suspending trips to DC in spring of 2020 it was increasingly difficult for USPP to consistently provide sufficient law enforcement officers to support the nearly 300 honor flight escorts each year. Historically, USPP has also escorted groups to and from all three area airports using emergency lights and sirens to expedite movement through congested traffic, a practice that is now recognized to be inconsistent with modern law enforcement best practices in non-emergency situations. In a shared commitment to a safety-first approach, the Honor Flight Network and USPP will focus law enforcement support around the National Mall and memorials area of USPP jurisdiction in Washington, DC.
Going forward, the USPP and park rangers from NAMA will meet the Honor Flight group at their chosen memorial, facilitate parking, meet with the veterans, and respond to any calls for emergency services needed by the group. Park rangers will deliver a program about any of the memorials, if desired. USPP will provide a ceremonial escort between memorials. These escorts will facilitate the safe transport of Honor Flights groups between the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial by providing temporary road closures and a law enforcement lead vehicle to guide them to each location. Ceremonial escort support will generally end at Arlington National Cemetery.
We are immeasurably grateful for the service of our veterans and humbled by the sacrifice of all who have served our country. We appreciate your strong interest in the National Park Service and for your engagement on this issue. Please know that we are committed to continuing to work with the Honor Flight Network. If you have any questions, please contact Acting USPP Chief Chris Stock at Christopher_Stock@nps.gov or by phone at (202) 619-7350.
A similar response is being sent to the cosigner of your letter.
Carles F. Sams III
Director, National Park Service