Honor Flight dates announced
WORTHINGTON -- Just two months after fundraising began, the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight has set April 30 and May 1 as the dates for 110 World War II veterans to travel to their memorial in Washington, D.C.
More than two dozen World War II veterans from Rock, Nobles, Murray and Pipestone counties will travel to St. Paul today, where the dates for the trip will officially be announced in an afternoon meeting with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
The trip will include the signing of a proclamation declaring March as Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight Initiative Month.
"It's wonderful to have a date," said Jane Wildung Lanphere, who serves on the executive committee for the flight. "The even greater news is that it's not over."
Lanphere said they had more veteran applications than they have seats on the airplane -- 37 too many, to be exact. As a result, the committee plans to move right into planning a second Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight this fall.
"It's a good thing we have this many veterans physically able to go on this trip, and we're very excited about that," said Lanphere.
"We've been told that we can expect 50 to 75 percent again (as many) applications from veterans who didn't think it was possible that we could do this," she said. "We want to take all the World War II veterans from southwest Minnesota this year."
While the committee has waited for more than two weeks to make the announcement of the dates, it also has been working on other plans. Last Friday, the paperwork was completed to have Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight be its own organization.
With the announcement of the dates, the committee will now proceed to contact each of the veterans who will take part in the inaugural Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight in the coming days. The 40 guardians chosen to help with the flight will also be contacted in the coming weeks.
Fundraising continues, with more than $115,000 raised so far. An estimated $136,000 is needed before the flight.
"It's still very important that people participate," said Lanphere. "We can certainly continue to use their generous contributions."
Released on Thursday was an itinerary for the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight. Veterans will gather in Luverne on Thursday evening for a banquet and will fly out of Sioux Falls at 7:30 a.m. April 30. After arriving in Washington, D.C., the group will visit the Air Force Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. That evening, they will be treated to a Hero's Banquet at their hotel in Alexandria, Va.
On May 1, the veterans will travel to the World War II Memorial in the morning and have lunch there before visiting the Korean, Lincoln, Vietnam and FDR memorials. An afternoon driving tour of the city will include views of the U.S. Capitol, White House and J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters. The final stop will be a visit to the Navy Memorial before heading to the airport for the return flight home.
A Heroes Arrival is slated for 10:30 p.m. May 1 in Luverne.