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More than 80 World War II veterans will visit memorials dedicated in their honor during a trip to Washington, D.C. this Saturday, as part of the second Northwest Arkansas Honor Flight.
Thanks to major donations from Tyson Foods, Inc. and the Walmart Foundation, as well as contributions from others, a commercial jet has been chartered to fly the veterans free of charge from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) to Washington D.C. and back. About 50 volunteer guardians and some medical personnel will also be on the flight.
This year’s veterans range in age from 88 to 98 and include four women who served in the military during World War II. The group will see the World War II Memorial, as well as other military memorials, during their day in the nation’s capital.
“We’re proud to continue our support of Honor Flight, which is another way we can say ‘thanks’ to those who served our country during the war,” said Bill McKenzie, director of Tyson Aviation, who is the coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas hub of Honor Flight. “The response from veterans and their families to last year’s first Honor Flight was so positive we immediately started making plans for this year’s trip.”
“The men and women who serve our country are our nation’s heroes," said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation. “Walmart is proud to support the Honor Flight and other programs that help our veterans.”
Veterans on the flight will be receiving cards and letters of appreciation as a result of a campaign by a University of Arkansas nursing student who is also an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet. After hearing about Honor Flight, Helen Snead enlisted the support of others in ROTC to solicit thank you notes from local university, elementary and middle school students, as well as other members of the community. To date more than 700 cards and letters have been collected.
“Both of my grandfathers were World War II vets and they never got to see the memorial in Washington, D.C.,” said Snead. “This is something I wanted to do to show that what they and the other veterans have done for our country has not been forgotten.”
Honor Flight Network is a national non-profit organization that started five years ago in Ohio, with six small planes taking a dozen World War II veterans to see the memorial. Today, there are more than 70 hubs in 34 states and the organization’s mission is to “transport America's veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.”
Video of the first Northwest Arkansas Honor Flight, taken in October 2009, can be viewed by clicking on the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRswPezsL98. Still photos from the event can be seen by going to: www.flickr.com/photos/tysonfoods/sets/72157622494978489/.