Effort honors veterans

Thanks to two Iowa businesses, the Polk County Board of Supervisors and three anonymous donors, nearly 400 Iowa veterans of the Korean War will take what one of them termed the “trip of a lifetime” next month to view the monument to those who served in that overlooked conflict.

Earlier this year, Polk County gave Central Iowa Honor Flight $200,000 to send 130 Korean War veterans to see their memorial in the nation’s capitol.

The response to the announcement was, in a word, staggering. After receiving some 500 applications from veterans, the group realized it would need a bigger plane and more money.

On Wednesday, Honor Flight organizers announced that Hy-Vee and Casey’s General Stores, along with three donors who asked to remain anonymous, had stepped up to help fill the funding gap. At separate announcements Wednesday morning, officials of the two Iowa-based companies said they were each donating $110,000 to help make the September flight a reality for deserving veterans.

“Veterans answered the call for us,” Jeff Ballenger, a longtime flight organizer, said during an announcement ceremony at the Casey’s General Store on Virginia Hills Road.

“To say we owe them a huge degree of recognition is an understatement,” added Casey’s CEO Bob Myers.

Mitch Streit, Madison Avenue store manager, noted that Hy-Vee has been a funding partner in the honor flight programs for veterans for a number of years.

“We’re pleased to help fund the next one,” he said during ceremonies at that store.

Over the past decade, the honor flights have taken about 3,000 aging World War II and Korea War veterans to view the monuments of their service.

For those who fail to see the value in the honor flights, we think it’s important to remember that the men and women who served in past conflicts, who are serving now and those who will serve in the future are and will always be the instruments of our policy makers. Veterans are common Americans, many of whom spilled their blood or gave their lives to spare others that fate – to protect the freedoms that we all too often take for granted.

We owe much to those individuals. The honor flights are a token of that appreciation.

And to those who have worked so hard to make the flights a reality, to the companies, organizations and individuals who have helped fund that effort, a heartfelt thank you.

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