Buffalo Ridge Leathernecks donate funds to Midwest Honor Flight
The $7,530 check will be used to sponsor 10 veterans for an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
WILMONT — During the 246th U.S. Marine Corps birthday celebration and ball Saturday evening at the Wilmont VFW, the Buffalo Ridge Leathernecks Marine Corps League Detachment 1463 presented a donation to Midwest Honor Flight.
The $7,530 contribution is enough to sponsor 10 veterans for a one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to view the military memorials.
Kristi Brantsen, a volunteer director for Midwest Honor Flight, accepted the donation.
“I’m thrilled — that’s 10 veterans that get to go,” said the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, woman who has joined veterans on four missions since becoming involved with the program in September 2018.
Midwest Honor Flight was founded in 2017 in Sioux Center, Iowa, by Aaron Van Beek, a third grade teacher in Sioux Center and member of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 199. In addition to serving as volunteer president and director of Midwest Honor Flight, he is the volunteer director for South Dakota Veterans Cemetery Wreaths Across America and Sioux Center Wreaths Across America.
Van Beek’s interest in the military stems from three great-grandfathers who served in World War II, and a grandfather who served in Vietnam. When he saw so many veterans who either didn’t have the time or the money to travel to Washington, D.C., to view their memorials, he worked to establish Midwest Honor Flight through the Honor Flight Network.
Thus far, Midwest Honor Flight has flown eight missions, totaling 734 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Hampered by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and early 2021, they completed two trips this fall — one in September and one in October. Brantsen said they are hoping to complete five flights in 2022.
“We are always fundraising,” she said, noting that donations come in from large and small groups including VFWs and American Legion posts, to youth organizations to do their own fundraising campaigns for Midwest Honor Flight.
In addition to all veterans from South Dakota, Midwest Honor Flight accepts applications from veterans in Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood and Rock counties in southwest Minnesota; as well as Clay, Cherokee, Dickinson, Ida, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties in northwest Iowa.
Brantsen and fellow board members are tasked with not only fundraising, but encouraging veterans to apply for a flight.
“These trips are for them,” she said, adding that volunteers work to make the flights memorable and frequently remind the veterans how much they are loved and appreciated.
“Their sacrifices aren’t forgotten,” said Brantsen.
Currently, there are nearly 800 veterans on the waiting list for a trip with Midwest Honor Flight. Brantsen said World War II veterans get immediate priority for a flight, followed by Korean and Vietnam veterans.
“Once you’ve applied for a flight, your application stays in the system,” she said, noting the estimated wait time for a Korean War veteran is 12 to 18 months, while a Vietnam veteran can wait two to three years for a flight.
“We do a regular flight of 83 veterans — that’s one veteran to one guardian,” Brantsen shared. “If we do (a flight with) all Vietnam veterans, we can do three veterans to one guardian as we find they are more able-bodied.”
Midwest Honor Flight does one-day trips only, flying in and out of the airport in Sioux Falls. Brantsen said the schedule includes assembling at the airport at 3 a.m. on flight day, with take-off at about 5 a.m. Flights return to Sioux Falls at about 8 p.m.
Any business, organization, family or individual who would like to contribute to Midwest Honor Flight may do so online at midwesthonorflight.org/donate.html , or send a check to Midwest Honor Flight, P.O. Box 22; Sioux Center, IA 51250.