Van Wert County group takes Honor Flight
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 12:01 AM
VAN WERT — Last week a group of 11 veterans and five guardians from Van Wert County were taken on an Honor Flight arranged by the Van Wert County Veterans Service Office. The group flew out of Dayton to Washington D.C. on Friday, Aug. 8.
Veterans from Van Wert County were taken on an Honor Flight from Dayton to Washington D.C. last week. The trip was organized by the Van Wert County Veterans Service Office. Pictured above, the 11 veterans and five guardians from Van Wert County pose along with others who took the Aug. 8 trip.(Submitted photo)
Veterans went on the Honor Flight, World War II veterans: William Bolenbaugh, Harold Liebrecht, David Poe, Ruth Stump, Korea veterans: Bryon Showalter, Frank Conn, Thomas Sunderland, Vietnam veterans: Steve Anderson, David Bolenbaugh, Richard Heitz, and Gary Thomas. Guardians on the trip were: Sharon Miller, Michael Conn, Jeff Medford, Debra Germann, and Barry Johns.
In organizing the trip, Johns, the Veterans Service Officer for Van Wert County contacted Van Wert High School FCCLA Lynda Ragan sponsor about the Blankets of Valor program. That group had provided blankets for two previous Honor Flights out of Fort Wayne. Ragan contacted Greg Gambell of the Van Wert Shooting Stars 4-H club which made the blankets for the veterans to take on the trip. Donations for the material of the blankets were provided by the Convoy Conservation and Fox Hunters Club, Larry and Linda Stutz, Scott Ohio Lions Club, Van Wert Community Club and Van Wert Knights of Columbus.
The group was driven to Tipp City the day before the trip in vans donated by Taylor’s Auto Sales and Lee Kinstle GM Sales & Service by volunteer drivers Paul Coburn and Mike Morris. The veterans, guardians and drivers, were also treated to a supper at Bob Evans in Tipp City. The meal was provided by Van Wert Knights of Columbus, Ryan and Debra Long, and a grateful American family.
Johns shared that he wanted to thank everyone who helped in making this a great day for our veterans.
Early Friday morning, the group left Dayton for Washington through Bill Nicklas with the Honor Flight Dayton, Inc. group. Nicklas and his team do not have an advertising budget to help raise the needed funds to allow veterans to take this trip for free, but they do accept donations to Bill Nicklas at Honor Flight Dayton, Inc. 525 Victory Road, Springfield, Ohio 45504.
“It was an awesome trip,” Johns remarked. “We had 11 veterans and five guardians on the trip, For the whole flight there were actually 32 people, so we about had half the trip ourselves!”
The first stop was at the World War II Monument. This is one of the feature attractions, as emphasis on getting these veterans to Washington to see their memorial in person has been a priority for most Honor Flight groups.
“They brought lunch right to the memorial and we sat on the benches and ate,” Johns noted. “From there we went to see the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.”
This moving ceremony was a favorite of the group, watching the precision of the unit guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Van Wert County group naturally found themselves standing together to watch the movements and hear the synchronized clicking of the heels. From there, the group visited the new Air Force Museum, then drove by the Pentagon before stopping to see the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean Memorial.
The respect for the veterans was obvious among those in Washington.
Johns related, “Probably one of the biggest thing that got me was as soon as someone would see the Honor Flight shirt, from kids to other veterans to women to foreigners, they came up and shook the veteran’s hand and thanked them for their service. It was an all-day thing; If they noticed the Honor Flight shirt, they automatically came up to the veteran and thanked him. That was really neat to see.”
The respect was also very noticeable in the welcome home celebration when their plane arrived back in Dayton.
“We were over an honor late when we got back,” Johns said. “You would think anybody hanging around, waiting to congratulate them wouldn’t have gone home by then. But I’ve never seen anything like it. There were hundreds of people there. Military people, civilians, they had girls dressed up in 50s outfits. We had a World War II female veteran, and they had a special bow they put in her hair.”
Johns is still gathering names for a group to take another Honor Flight, probably sometime next year. Anyone interested in going as a veteran or those wanting to be guardians. Applications are available on the Honor Flight Dayton website or by stopping by the Veterans Service Office in the basement of the Van Wert County Courthouse. There is a cost for guardians to take the trip.
“Honor Flight Dayton also has a way to honor any deceased veterans who never saw their memorials and living veterans who may never be able to see their memorials. They accomplish this at the memorials by conducting a ceremony that is referred to as Honoring Yesterday’s Heroes,” Johns explained. “You can get this information from the website or from our office also.”