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Honor Flight Northeast Indiana will send 80 WWII veterans — several of them from Adams County — to Washington D.C., on Wednesday, departing from the the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne International Airport.
The veterans, volunteer guardians, and families, will gather at the 122 Fighter Wing by 6 a.m. as breakfast will be provided by Air National Guard volunteers. Veterans and guardians will start boarding the aircraft between 7 and 7:30 a.m., with a projected 8 a.m. takeoff, according to a news release.
Return time is tentative, but expected to be approximately 9 p.m.
Organizers said each of the three previous honor flights out of northeast Indiana were on small jets that accommodated 25–26 veterans per flight. Community donations, fundraisers, and volunteer supporters have allowed the organization to more than triple the number of veterans to be served on this final flight of 2010, the news release said.
The 11 local men from the Decatur and Monroeville areas who will be on this flight are Ken Jackson, Harold Blauvelt, DeWayne Steiner, "Bing" Johnson, Roy Brown, Lester Burkhart, Don Stockman, Hubert Zerkel, Vaughn Schindler, Jim McCrory, and Kenneth Sprunger.
The age range of veterans on this flight is 83-94 years; 18 of them are over the age of 90.
"With 1,000 WWII veterans dying every day in the USA we have to act quickly to serve those who would still like to have the opportunity to see this (World War II) monument that was built in their honor, and in the honor of their comrades who did not come home," an Honor Flight representative said.
In addition to the World War II Memorial and the memorials to the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Arlington National Cemetery, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, and other places will be visited by the vets.
After this flight, 50 WWII veterans from northeast Indiana will remain on the waiting list. "New applications continue to arrive every week, so we continue to seek the support of the NE Indiana community," the spokesperson said.
The owners of Zwick and Jahn Funeral Home in Decatur, one of three northeastern Indiana corporate sponsors of the Honor Flights, issued a statement saying, "Please help us continue to provide these veterans with this opportunity. Ask us how to make contributions to the Honor Flight program."
The statement adds that the World War II Memorial "is a long-overdue 'Thank You' to the men and women who sacrificed so much for our freedom and a memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It was so long overdue that many WWII survivors have been unable to visit their memorial due to advanced age, health matters, stamina, finances, or other travel impediments.
"Honor Flight provides a way for many of these veterans to visit and reflect at their memorial. WWII veterans pay nothing for this trip. They have given enough. Honor Flight is funded by community donations from generous individuals, businesses, foundations, and other groups wishing to be an important part of honoring these heroes.
"The cost is also defrayed, in part, by Honor Flight volunteer 'guardians,' who make a substantial donation to honor veterans in a very personal way, escorting them and being there to help as needed throughout the day."
The cost to send one veteran to see the D.C. memorials is approximately $500.