Fourteen flights made over a five year period of time. Over 1,200 veterans transported to Washington D.C and back. More than one million dollars raised. The commitment to sponsor Waterloo Honor Flights by Sullivan-Hartogh-Davis Post 730 has been no small measure, indeed.
Black Hawk County Board of Supervisor Craig White, the public face of Waterloo Honor Flights, shares the story of how Waterloo’s Honor Flight program got off the ground with each group of Honor Flight veterans attending their pre-flight meeting. What began as a conversation with Jim Coloff about potential community projects in 2010, has blossomed into a campaign that has sent hundreds of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans on an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. While there, the veterans make stops at the World War II, Lincoln, Korean War, Vietnam War and United States Air Force Memorials. They also visit Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
Such a commitment to the veterans of the Cedar Valley comes from a group of volunteers very passionate about serving those who have served their country during a time when they were very much needed. When Waterloo Honor Flight organizers, including La Porte City’s Janet Liming, began preparing for the first flight which lifted off in May 2011, they were literally creating the infrastructure necessary to organize the project as they went along. Five years later, established procedures put in place by the Honor Flight Board may make the work easier to manage, but it is no less challenging. In 2015, oxygen, wheelchairs and medications are common accessories for the men and women who served their nation more than 50 years ago, and every detail regarding the care of veterans is checked and double-checked. And while the volunteers and medical personnel assigned to each flight make a day in D.C. look easy to manage, such appearances are only made possible with absolute thorough preparation.
While Honor Flights can be many things for the veterans that enjoy them, one thing they are not is cheap. Each flight costs in excess of $100,000. In 2010, Waterloo Honor Flight organizers got an unexpected gift to jump-start their fundraising campaign, when Burk “Skeet” Miehe and his wife, Julie, along with the employees at American Pattern and CNC Works made a $100,000 donation to sponsor one of the first flights from Waterloo. Since then, other corporate donors have made generous contributions, including John Deere, which sponsored a flight in 2014. The Waterloo area Hy-Vee stores have been major supporters of Waterloo Honor Flight from day one, catering the pre-flight meals and supplying each veteran with a “goody bag” stocked with several travel items, including a disposable camera and the pledge to develop the photos taken with it at no charge. Still, the challenge to raise more than $300,000 needed annually to keep the program going remains an immense one.
Friends of Mike: With the price tag for three Honor Flights from Waterloo to Washington D.C. costing more than $300,000, organizers are hoping to solicit 3,000 $100 donations from residents of northeast Iowa. If successful, these 3,000 “Friends of Mike” would allow Honor Flights from Waterloo to continue in 2016, making them available to area veterans of the Vietnam War. For additional information or to make a donation, logon to www.shdpost730waterloohonorflight.org or visit the Waterloo Honor Flight Facebook page.
Did You Know? Since the first Waterloo Honor Flight lifted off in May 2011, nearly 30 veterans from La Porte City and Dysart have made the trip to Washington D.C.