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Local group forms to support Honor Flight

For 10 years, the WDAY Honor Flight has been providing a trip of a lifetime for veterans from World War II and the Korean War.

More than 1,000 vets, including a few in Douglas County, have flown free of charge to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials that stand in their honor.

Now, a local group has formed to raise money for the cause so more veterans can take the flight.

The Lakes Area Honor Flight is planning a variety of fundraisers over the next several months — a bowling tournament, bake sale, pancake feed, silent auctions, a 5K run, bike trail rides and more. More information will be released as details are worked out. Proceeds from the activities will go to the Fargo-based WDAY Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization operating under the umbrella of the National Honor Flight Network.

The local group has two other goals — encouraging other organizations to support the cause by hosting their own fundraising events, and finding veterans from WWII and the Korean War who want to take the flight and helping them with the application process.

Kevin Mahoney of Alexandria came up with the idea to start a local Honor Flight group and a small group of volunteers soon joined the effort.

"Honoring veterans is something I am very passionate about," Mahoney said. "My father, and later my step-father, were both veterans of World War II, though neither lived to see Honor Flights. Knowing that we can have an impact helping people like my dad and stepdad is wonderful."

Mahoney said he's looking forward to working with other service groups and charities in the area, and helping local veterans get their applications in for a future Honor Flight.

"I would also love to talk to anyone else interested in helping with planning or holding events, whether that's for the long term or for one fundraiser," Mahoney said.

Each flight costs about $150,000, which includes airfare, meals, lodging and busing at no cost to the veterans. Each flight has room for 162 passengers, some of them medical staff and volunteers.

Veterans and their guardians stay overnight in Washington, D.C. Their itinerary includes visits to the World War II Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial and other sites. They also attend a banquet in their honor during the two-day trip.

The flights are offered twice a year — spring and fall. Right now, there are more than 100 veterans on the waiting list for the spring 2018 flight.

Veterans are selected for the flights on a first-come, first-served basis, depending upon the era of service. World War II veterans who have not previously taken the trip and terminally ill veterans of any war or conflict take top priority, followed by Korean War vets.

The flights include several special touches — a mail call once the vets are seated in the airplane, thank-you notes from school kids, a breakfast on the flight, and singing Patriotic songs. Each vet receives a nylon wind jacket, a T-shirt, a backpack with other essentials, plus a "C-Rations" box of food.

Those with questions about the Lakes Area Honor Flight, or who want to recommend a veteran for a flight or help in any way, may contact Kevin Mahoney at kjmahoney47@gmail.com or call 320-760-6328.

"We won't turn away anyone who wants to help," Mahoney said. "Making sure local veterans get to go on an Honor Flight is such a wonderful way we can give back to those who have sacrificed so much."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236
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