Nearly a century after some women broke barriers and convention by leaving their homes to serve their country, Honor Flight Columbus plans to take women military veterans on a historic ride.

Nearly a century after some women broke barriers and convention by leaving their homes to serve their country, Honor Flight Columbus plans to take women military veterans on a historic ride.

In World War II and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, women served America's armed forces in intelligence services, as nurses, airplane mechanics and in a variety of other ways that not only required braveness and sacrifice, but also enabled more combat-eligible men to fight.

U.S. Navy veteran (Vietnam) Bill Richards and his wife, Bobbi, of Upper Arlington, never underestimated that dedication and for several years have hoped to recognize it through their work as directors emeritus of Honor Flight Columbus.

Since 2007, the couple has organized free trips for nearly 4,000 veterans from the greater Columbus area with an Honor Flight to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C.

On Sept. 10, they'll hold their first all-women veterans' Honor Flight.

"Not a single one of those women had to go," Bill Richards said. "None were drafted. They just had a sense of pride and to do what they had to do."

Richards noted the female veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam also were role models and paved the way for servicewomen today who have been given the right to fight alongside men on the front lines of military conflicts.

That's why he hopes to recruit women from the three conflicts -- "senior veterans," as he calls them -- to take part in the trip.

The deadline to apply is Monday, July 11, and forms be accessed by clicking the "Veteran Application" at, or by calling 614-284-4987.

"It's the first time for us," Richards said. "Cincinnati did one last year and it was very successful, and Colorado did one last year and it was very special.

"We have a lot of women veterans out there. They weren't in combat and some view themselves as secondary, as not qualified, but we all know what they've done and the role they played."

Richards then added, "It's a chance to honor these ladies before it's too late."

That's where the Westerville for Honor Flight Committee enters the picture.

For eight years, the group has played a crucial role in sending veterans on the trip to D.C.

Each year, the group, a staunch core of 10 to 15 members, has raised more than $50,000 through a myriad of fundraisers like $1 Hat Day for elementary students at Westerville Schools, a variety show and a pancake breakfast at the American Legion Post 171.

Westerville for Honor Flight Committee once again has raised money to send 80 to 85 senior women veterans on the upcoming trip.

Committee Chairwoman Diane Fosselman said she was inspired nine years ago to aid Honor Flight Columbus after learning about it when her father, a World War II veteran was invited to take a trip.

She said her support and that of her committee hasn't wavered since.

"All you have to do is attend a 'welcome home' from an Honor Flight," Fosselman said. "You see veterans, many of whom never shared their experiences serving in the military, who have incredible stories.

"It's a pretty emotional experience. Many of the veterans never really received any appreciation."

Fosselman said the Westerville Sunrise Rotary decided to hold a special tribute to women in the military this Memorial Day weekend for its annual Field of Heroes. The "field" features 3,000 American flags placed in the ground across from the Westerville Community Center.

"This is the first time Honor Flight has a special recognition for women and the fact that the (Sunrise) Rotary is honoring women also, it just fit perfectly in our community," Fosselman said. "We also hold Bill and Bobbi Richards very closely to our hearts and we want to support their passion - in addition to honoring these women.

"To give them an opportunity to spend some time with other women in the military, I think, is going to be a great experience."

Richards agreed and noted that, as of last week, he'd received about 30 applications from women who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

He hopes word will spread quickly, and said a number of "special surprises" are in store for a group of women who he believes richly deserve a chance to be recognized, treated and have the opportunity to share experiences with their fellow servicewomen.

"Some of these women are trailblazers," Richards said. "We said, "We've got to figure out a way to get these women here.'

"We're really excited about it."