Honor flight sends vets to visit memorialWorld War II veterans from Western North Dakota will have the opportunity to see the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. for free.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
World War II veterans from Western North Dakota will have the opportunity to see the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. for free.
The Roughrider Honor Flight, a member of the Honor Flight Network, will provide chartered commercial flights to Washington from Bismarck for interested area veterans.
The World War II memorial opened in April 2004, said Kevin Cramer, Roughrider Honor Flight Campaign co-chairman.
“There were 16 million Americans that participated in World War II so a vast majority of those people died before that memorial was even built in their honor,” he said. “The mission of the Honor Flight is to make it possible for as many World War II veterans as we can to go see the memorial that was built in their honor. Since it was built 1,000 veterans of World War II have died everyday.”
Cramer estimates there are 3,000 to 6,000 WWII veterans in North Dakota.
The Honor Flight program was founded in 2004 by a retired Air Force captain and physician assistant Earl Morse as a way to honor his patients, according to a press release.
The first flight departed in Springfield, Ohio in 2005. Since then, additional honor flights across the country have taken off, including flights from Fargo.
Cramer said the youngest WWII veteran is about 80 years old and getting veterans to see the memorial is a priority.
“It’s a very short window we have to make this happen,” Cramer said. “It will be a very special opportunity for these, the greatest generations, these heroes.”
Funding comes from donations, Cramer said, which allows the veterans to have an expense-paid trip.
“No matter how much money they have, this is simply the community’s gift to these men and women that have given so much for us,” Cramer said. “We want to subsidize this so it doesn’t become a burden for families.”
Escorts for the veterans, if needed, are also allowed on the trips for $500.
“From our experience, out of 80 veterans, about 50 of them will require an escort,” Cramer said. “We also bring with us a full medical team that will be available on the airplane as well as when we get to Washington. We make it as easy and as comfortable as possible for these veterans.”
Three flights cost about $500,000, including money that is contributed by escorts, Cramer estimates.
Roughrider Honor Flight participants will be flown to the WWII Memorial in the order in which they were enrolled, with top priority to those with serious medical conditions.
Joel Hauer, co-chairperson of the campaign said the flights are important.
“We’re hoping to really start raising some money,” Hauer said. “I think we’ve got about $50,000 raised so far. We’ve just signed up the first veteran and we’ve hoping to get more.”
Cramer said he hopes there will be two flights and three flights is the ultimate goal.
For information or to make a donation, visit www.rrhonorflight.com or call 701-373-5416.