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Honor Flights still on mission
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Maybe a local group can’t officially use the name “Honor Flights,” anymore, but the former Central Prairie Honor Flights, coordinated by the Great Bend Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development office, is proceeding full speed ahead. The governing board of Honor Flights Network, based in Springfield, Ohio, voted to decertify Central Prairie Honor Flights in April. The local group has earned state and national recognition for honoring World War II veterans. The chairman of the Honor Flights Network offered no explanation why Central Prairie Honor Flights lost its certification. The Central Prairie Honor Flights have coordinated 17 flights for more than 1,100 World War II veterans from Kansas to Washington, D.C. the past four years. The loss of certification has re-energized volunteers in central Kansas. Wichita fundraising is continuing at a brisk pace, according to a volunteer organizer with Honor Flight Wichita. Several donors have pledged financial support to help insure that more than 350 Kansas World War II veterans will visit Washington, D.C. later this fall. “I’ve visited with several major Wichita businesses who have supported us from the start and they all are on board for providing support,” said Wichita’s Herb Duncan. “We are intent on finishing our mission of sending the remaining Kansas World War II veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. We plan to continue to send these veterans off with an Honor Flight Wichita social and pre-flight briefing and then after their trip, bring them back to a heroes’ welcome.” Duncan coordinates the web site and appreciates the support that the Honor Flight Wichita volunteer group has received from those in Sedgwick County. Duncan said Honor Flight Wichita volunteers are very thankful for the generosity of the Central Community Church, 6100 West Maple. “The day of the sendoff social and pre-fight briefing, the church members place 10-foot tall flag poles, with the American flag flying, along the street in front of the church. The flag poles are about 100, or more, in number. Quite impressive as fellow Kansas families deliver the World War II veterans to the special event. “When you see all those U.S. flags waving in the Kansas breeze, it brings tears to your eyes,” Duncan said. “There is a tremendous sense of pride in these veterans who have served our country during a time of war.” Duncan said Pleasant Valley Middle School students raised $13,000 so that 12 students could accompany veterans on a trip to the capital in 2011. Duncan has provided DVD copies of Pleasant Valley’s Honor Flight to Wichita middle schools to be used in their curriculum next year. “This is a living history for students because we also invite veterans to tell their stories to the middle school students,” Duncan said. LaVeta Miller, coordinator for Central Prairie Honor Flights, said the lack of affiliation with the national group will not affect the group’s mission of sending 350 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. at a price tag of $230,000. Veterans have visited the World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and Fort McHenry. Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole and current U.S. Senator Jerry Moran have regularly met the Kansas veterans on their trips. Central Prairie operated five trips in 2011 from Wichita, Garden City and Kansas City. Four trips were made in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Miller said the group intends to proceed with future trips with a new name. “Our mission has not changed,” she said. “We’ve got a great group of volunteers who will continue to work to send veterans to Washington. We plan to go ahead with our Flights of Honor despite not being affiliated with the national group. We’ve still got 350 veterans in our data base who have expressed an interest in going to Washington. There are guardians who want to continue to help with the mission of getting veterans to Washington.” Lyndon Superintendent of Schools Brian Spencer said he was part of a board that had met with Miller in Washington before the decision to decertify Central Prairie Honor Flights was made. “It was a decision that was done with a heavy heart and it wasn’t taken lightly,” he said. Spencer said he supports the group moving forward and sending more veterans. Lyndon students have participated as guardians as part of their community service. “The program has been a huge blessing for veterans and guardians,” Spencer said. “I hope the group continues to sponsor trips. It has to be done safely and you have to provide some guardian training.” Duncan said he has been repeatedly invited to join the new Honor Flight group, which is apparently organizing out of Hutchinson. “It just doesn’t make sense to try and reinvent the wheel,” Duncan said. “Central Prairie Honor Flights has a proven track record of getting our Kansas World War II veterans to our nation’s capital to visit the World War II Memorial. A letter-writing campaign has been started by Kansas veterans and their families to Honor Flight, Inc., 300 E. Auburan Ave., Springfield, OH, 45505-4703, to request that the Honor Flight Network reinstate the Central Prairie Honor Flight Hub in Great Bend. “We are losing valuable time and some of our Kansas World War II veterans won’t make the trip in 2012 if this nonsense persists,” Duncan said. “We invite and encourage all Kansans to please take the time and help restore such a successful, active, patriotic organization as the Central Prairie Honor Flights Kansas Hub in Great Bend.” A town hall meeting has been scheduled at 6 p.m. June 19 at the American Legion Hopkins Post, 816 N. Water, Wichita. The purpose of this meeting is to answer questions about the loss of affiliation with the Honor Flight Network and Central Prairie Honor Flights. LaVeta Miller will be available to answer questions about the operation of Honor Flights based in Great Bend. Donations are being accepted at Central Prairie RC & D, 1916 16th Street, Great Bend, KS, 67530. Credit card donations are accepted at