A big donation Wednesday will allow Korean War veterans from Nebraska to join their western Iowa Honor Flight brothers on a trip to historic military sites in Washington, D.C., next month.
The $10,000 gift from the Mutual of Omaha Foundation gave Nebraska Honor Flight $85,000 in cash and commitments, said Bill Williams, who is coordinating the flight.
Other large gifts came from the Nebraskaland National Bank of North Platte, Charles “Mike” Harper, Chris and Betsy Murphy, and Pete Ricketts, Williams said. Many other Nebraskans made smaller gifts through the Midlands Community Foundation.
He said 136 Korean War veterans have been selected from among 550 applicants from across Nebraska. All of them served in combat roles during the conflict, which lasted from 1950 to 1953.
“That was the hard part, because there's so many that want to go,” Williams said. “We're trying to get every deserving vet on the flight.”
The back-to-back, one-day flights will leave Omaha early in the morning — the Nebraskans on Oct. 29, the Iowans on Oct. 30 — packed with Korean War veterans headed for a busy day in the nation's capital.
They'll climb aboard buses to visit the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial. They'll be home around midnight.
The trips, which are free to the veterans, will cost about $80,000 each, organizers say. The two groups saved about $30,000 by joining together to charter the same Boeing 737 on consecutive days.
A donation announced Tuesday by the Iowa West Foundation gave the western Iowa group all it needed, said Jeff Ballenger, co-organizer of the trip.
Scott Doll, owner of an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Council Bluffs, donated $10,000, Ballenger said, but the rest of the money came in small donations from across the region.
“They say the Korean War was the forgotten war,” Ballenger said. “Once again, western Iowans have stepped up financially to see that these guys are not forgotten.”
Previous Honor Flights have carried 3,500 World War II veterans from Nebraska and western Iowa to Washington in 2008 and 2009.
This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.