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Ninety World War II veterans from the northwest Arkansas region visited the World War II Memorial in Washington this past weekend as part of a trip Tyson Foods, Inc. helped fund and organize with the support of contributions by the Walmart Foundation.
Established four years ago to transport America’s veterans to the nation’s capital to visit those memorials honoring their service and sacrifices, the trip, called “Honor Flight,” was planned in coordination with a national organization called the Honor Flight Network.
Through Tyson’s involvement, and as a result of contributions by the Walmart Foundation and others, a commercial jet was chartered to fly the veterans free of charge from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to Washington and back. Volunteer guardians and some medical personnel were also on the flight, bringing the total number of people on the trip to more than 140.
The plane carrying the Honor Flight group received a water-cannon salute from the airport fire department as it taxied to the runway for takeoff. The veterans on the flight, who are between the ages of 85 and 98, spent the day visiting the World War II Memorial, as well as other nearby war memorials during the daylong visit.
Commenting on his visit to the World War II Memorial, Jim Langford, a resident of Tyson’s Springdale, Ark., hometown, who served in the infantry from 1943 to 1956, said: “It’s just magnificent … it’s very emotional for anybody to see something like this that commemorates things you’ve done in the past.”
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that started four 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. The recently formed northwest Arkansas hub of the network is currently the only one in the state.
“This was an opportunity for us to recognize those who served our country so faithfully in the war,” said Bill McKenzie, director of Tyson Aviation, who coordinated the start of the northwest Arkansas hub. “We appreciate the financial support of Tyson Foods and the Walmart Foundation, as well as many other individual contributors. These funds allowed us to offer this flight at no cost to the veterans.”
Tyson and the Walmart Foundation each donated $25,000, which covered a majority of the $65,000 expense for the Oct. 17 trip.
Video of the trip, including interviews, can be accessed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRswPezsL98.