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Articles & Local History > 2011 - Veterans take Honor Flight May 19


Sauk Valley Newspapers (Dixon-Sterling, IL)

May 9, 2011
Section: Local

Veterans take Honor Flight May 19

Tara Becker Tbecker@svnmail.Com 8007984085 Ext. 570  

More than 200 World War II veterans from Lee and Whiteside counties have taken their Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to see a monument built in honor of their service. Now, Honor Flight groups in both counties are coming down to their last few rides.

On May 19, another flight will send 16 to 18 Whiteside veterans to see the monument, bringing the grand total to 180 since the group formed in 2009, said co-organizer Bob VanDeVelde.

There is a handful of veterans to take to D.C., but some of them have been unable to go due to health problems, VanDeVelde said.

The Lee County group, which has been operating for a year, has sent 56 veterans so far and will send another 8 on this flight, said treasurer and co-organizer Rich Sanders. Sanders said when the group first formed, it identified nearly 80 veterans to take to D.C. “We’re still beating the bushes to make sure that there aren’t any Lee County veterans who haven’t heard about [Honor Flight],” Sanders said. Veterans from Bureau, Carroll, and Ogle counties also will send veterans to D.C. May 19.

The Honor Flight program, launched in 2005, offers veterans an all-expenses-paid, one-day trip to visit Washington to see the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam memorials, as well as Arlington National Cemetery. Sending Whiteside County World War II veterans has been a “work of love,” VanDeVelde said. It’s also been a project that has been embraced by the community. In the first 18 months of fundraising, the Whiteside County group raised about $150,000. It’s raised $15,000 more this year through donations and a World War II review show in Clinton, Iowa, April 2. “We’ve really had a fantastic acceptance,” VanDeVelde said. Lee County, too, has received some love from the public.

In the past year, the group has raised $45,000, Sanders said. On May 27, it is hosting a performance of the Class Act II Big Band, based in Amboy, at Dixon High School, Sanders said. While both groups are close to sending all of their World War II veterans, the work isn’t over. Once all those veterans have made the trip, veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars can take their turns. Both groups send their veterans through the Quad Cities hub. Sanders said the Quad Cities Honor Flight still has World War II veterans to send to D.C., so local Korea and Vietnam war veterans may still have some time to wait.

A problem Whiteside County is facing, VanDeVelde said, is finding Korean and Vietnam War veterans to step up and help out with the Honor Flights. VanDeVelde served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II. “The older veterans, like myself, are getting a little burned out,” he said. “We’ve had so many great citizens helping out, but we haven’t seen a lot of Korean and Vietnam vets that are interested in getting active with the Honor Flight program.” Sanders said the Lee County group hasn’t had a problem with getting volunteers from the two wars, adding that it has volunteers who served during Desert Storm.

Sanders said the group already is starting to put together a data base of Lee County Korean and Vietnam War veterans. Sanders was in the U.S. Army and served a year in Vietnam during the war. He said he hopes that Vietnam war veterans will take advantage of the Honor Flight when it becomes their turn to go. “The memorials were kind of built in reverse,” Sanders said. “First it was the Vietnam memorial, then Korea, and then World War II. I have a feeling that maybe when it comes time to get to the Vietnam memorial, a lot of the veterans that want to go have already been there or have seen the traveling wall that may have been satisfied.”

To donate To help send a Whiteside County World War II veteran to Washington, D.C., make checks payable to Honor Flight of the Quad Cities and send them to: United Way of Whiteside County, 502 First Ave., Sterling Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce, 211 Locust St., Sterling American Legion, 601 First Ave., Sterling Ward, Murray, Pace and Johnson, 202 E. Fifth St., Sterling In Lee County, donations can be made and mailed to: Lee County Honor Flight, P.O. Box 986, Dixon, IL 61021

Who to call Whiteside County – Fulton: Virginia Ray, 815-590-3464 – Erie: Gary Farral, 309-659-2628 – Morrison: Kelly Wilhelmi, 815-772-5240; Donald Blair, 815-590-0961 – Prophetstown: Jerri Robinson, 815-537-5395 – Tampico: Terry Gaskill, 815-535-3665 – Rock Falls: John Espinosa, 815-718-2625 – Sterling: Bob VanDeVelde, 815-499-6100; Dave Murray, 815-631-2919 Lee County – Rich Sanders, 815-288-5683 – Greg Witzleb, 815-440-4650 – Hal Moroney, 815-284-1675 Meet the veterans

Pick up a copy of the May 14 SV Weekend to read profiles of the veterans taking part in the upcoming Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

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