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Callaway veterans to take Honor Flight

Eight Callaway County veterans will be on next week’s Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

The veterans will tour various veterans memorials and then make the return flight home on the same day.

Their one-day trip starts at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday when they meet in Columbia and are bused to St. Louis to board a flight to Baltimore, Md. They are then bused to Washington, D.C., and make stops at the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, U.S. Marine Corps Memorial showing the flag raising at Iwo Jima, and Arlington National Cemetery.

Veterans on the trip observe the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The group also passes by the Capitol, the White House and the Washington Monument.

They then are bused back to Baltimore and board a return flight to St. Louis. Late at night they are bused from St. Louis back to Columbia to end their long one-day trip at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, when they are welcomed home by friends and others gathered at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Columbia.

Callaway County Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer, who is active in the Honor Flight organization in Callaway County, said the eight Callaway County veterans on Tuesday’s flight are George Lewis, Earl O’Rourke, James McCarty, James Lantz, Robert Epperson, Kenneth Grotewiel, Colleen Moore and William Anthony.

Kritzer said another Honor Flight is tentatively scheduled to leave next month.

The first Honor Flight in Central Missouri was in 2009. Each flight takes about 110 people to and from Washington, D.C. They normally include about 65 World War II and Korean War veterans and about 45 guardians and support staff for the elderly veterans.

So far there have been 21 round-trip Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., for about 1, 200 eligible Central Missouri veterans.

Kritzer said Honor Flights were started to allow surviving World War II veterans to travel to Washington, D.C., and visit the World War II Memorial.

In recent years the program has expanded to include Korean War veterans and some Vietnam veterans who have health issues.

“Right now,” Kritzer said, “Central Missouri World War II and Korean War veterans have the highest priority. Eventually we will get to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well.”

Kritzer said a recent showing of a fundraising movie on the Honor Flight program in Columbia was highly successful, attracting about 600 people who bought tickets and about 200 veterans who were guests and also were served dinner.

After the event, the Veterans United Foundation in Columbia presented a check for $25,000 to the Central Missouri Honor Flight program. Part of the money was raised by the showing of the movie and silent auction and the rest through private donations.

Kritzer said it costs about $55,000 for each commercial round-trip flight. Guardians and volunteers buy their own tickets but the veterans have no costs for the entire trip.

Donations to the Honor Flight program can be mailed to: Central Missouri Honor Flight, 1400 Forum Blvd., Suite 38, P.O. Box 334, Columbia, Mo. 65203.

Applications for veterans to apply for a spot on the next flight, guardian applications and volunteer applications are available online at www.centralmissourihonorflight.com.

“Any Callaway County resident wanting to go on a flight or wanting to learn more about the program,” Kritzer said, “can call me at (573) 220-3536.”

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