OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — About 260 Korean War veterans from Nebraska and western Iowa will be making free visits to Washington, D.C., now that organizers have raised enough money to pay for two flights.
Bill Williams, of Patriotic Productions in Omaha, said Thursday that a $10,000 gift from the Mutual of Omaha Foundation on Wednesday helped him reach the $85,000 needed for the plane that will carry the Nebraskans.
On Tuesday the Western Iowa Honor Flight program announced that a $30,000 donation from the Iowa West Foundation would ensure that more than 100 Iowans take their trip.
"They say the Korean War was the forgotten war, and, once again, western Iowans have stepped up financially to see that these guys are not forgotten," Jeff Ballenger, co-organizer of the Western Iowa Honor Flight program, told The Daily Nonpareil newspaper.
The vets will tour the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam and World War II memorials. Additional stops are planned at the Air Force Memorial and at Arlington National Cemetery. If time permits, Ballenger said, the veterans may stop to see the new Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon.
Bill and Evonne Williams organized the Heartland Honor Flights that carried more than 1,500 World War II vets from Nebraska to Washington, D.C., in 2008 and 2009. The Williamses raised about $1.2 million for those trips, but financial support for the Korean War vets was harder to come by. That's why the Williamses joined forces with the Western Iowa Honor Flight program.
Williams booked the same plane for the consecutive flights: Oct. 29 for the Nebraskans, Oct. 30 for the Iowans. He said using the same plane two days in a row will save $20,000 or more.
The planes can carry around 130 veterans on each flight, forcing organizers to choose from several hundred applications.
Williams said he looked for the most deserving, starting with combat vets who fought in Korea from 1950 to 1953.