They have been called the "greatest generation" by some because the men and women who fought during World War II not only saved this country's way of life, but many came back home after the war to help propel America to great prosperity. We owe these aging warriors a lot. Sadly, we lose many of them every day.
There is a local committee effort to raise enough funds to fly some of these honorable Americans on a journey to Washington, D.C., to view "their" WWII Monument. About 40 to 50 WWII veterans live in the Garden City area, with hundreds more in the western half of the state.
A handful of appreciative, local WWII-era veterans made an Honor Flight trip in recent years, but they had to be bused or driven to Denver or Kansas City to board their aircraft. Current plans call for the chartering of a flight out of Garden City Regional Airport in late October. The 172-seat aircraft will be able to accommodate most of those already on the Honor Flight waiting list. If a veteran doesn't make the cutoff for this flight, it will improve his or her chances for a flight that may take place next spring.
Some veterans are frail or are handicapped, so assigned chaperones will be part of the passenger mix. Ideally, there will be one chaperone for every three veterans.
All of this comes with a hefty price tag. Central Prairie Honor Flight, based in Great Bend, which gives guidance to the local committee, estimates it costs about $80,000 to finalize such a flight. That's about $650 per veteran. Of course the flight, hotel, meals and ground transportation are provided at no cost to these military heroes. Chaperones, often family members, are required to pay to travel.
About a dozen dedicated committee people are busy combing Garden City, Tribune and other community businesses asking for donations of cash and/or new items or services that can be auctioned during an Honor Flight benefit on Patriot's Day, Sept. 11. Some items collected thus far include homemade furniture, beef bundles and coupons good for solar salt delivery.
This is a noble effort and it needs the support of every business and citizen. The motto of Central Prairie Honor Flight is "I dare to care." Please rally around the flag and help make this event successful. If you have not been contacted and have a donation, large or small, please contact Tim Stone at 275-2096, Jim Arwine at (620) 640-5179 (Garden City) or Mark Rine at (620) 376-8492 (Tribune, Scott City area) for pickup. Checks should be made out to Central Prairie Honor Flight, with "Garden City Flight" on the memo line.
Perhaps the easiest way to have an impact is to take part in the benefit meal, auction and live music this Saturday at the VFW Post, 1101 W. Mary St. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets sell for $25 at the event, or in advance at The Corner on Main, Garden City State Bank and the Crazy House.
Arwine serves on the Garden City Honor Flight Committee.