The Western Iowa Honor Flight has raised enough money to take a planeload of Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., next month, organizers say.
The Nebraska Honor Flight is almost off the ground, too.
The back-to-back, one-day flights will leave Omaha early in the morning — the Nebraskans on Oct. 29, the Iowans on Oct. 30 — 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 plane, a 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.
“It allows the trip to happen,” he said. “And we're so thankful to Iowa West for allowing our veterans to see their memorial.”
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.”
Nebraska Honor Flight coordinator Bill Williams said his group still needs about $15,000 to fully fund its flight.
He said 136 Korean War veterans have been selected from among 550 applicants from across the state. 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.”
Those interested in supporting the Nebraska Honor Flight may send tax-deductible donations to the Midlands Community Foundation, 945 N. Adams St., Suite 7, Papillion, NE 68046, or donate online at MidlandsCommunity.org.
Although their main fundraising goal is met, Ballenger said, Iowa organizers still hope to raise $4,500 more to help buy commemorative jackets for the 150 vets on the flight.
Donations may be mailed to: Western Iowa Honor Flight, P.O. Box 125, Council Bluffs, IA 51502.
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.