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Veterans' groups in Iowa county aid Honor Flight

By PAT KINNEY | Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa | Published: August 17, 2013

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa - Buchanan County has done its part to keep Honor Flights airborne in 2014.

The combined American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in that county raised $47,500 in an event in Independence last weekend to keep Honor Flight going in a five-county area. The program flies military veterans of World War II and Korea to see their national memorials in Washington, D.C. Local flights are staged from the Waterloo Regional Airport.

It is second-largest contribution since Honor Flights began flying out of Waterloo in 2011, organizer and Black Hawk County Supervisor Craig White said.

The combined Buchanan County veterans posts had a Saturday dinner with entertainment and live and silent auctions at the Henderson Event Center in Independence. The event actually raised more money than a similar event in Waterloo in April.

"Our committee was very impressed with the way the residents and businesses of Buchanan County pulled together to support this fundraiser for the veterans," organizer Clayton Ohrt of Quasqueton said. "We were very proud of everybody.

"This is a great way to honor our veterans, to get them out there and see their memorials and get them some closure if they're having issues with it. Just to see the smiles on their faces when they come back to the Waterloo airport is just awesome."

Ohrt is hoping other counties in the area will hold similar events, and he said Buchanan county veterans groups are ready to support them.

White was overwhelmed when he heard how much the Buchanan County event raised.

"Wow that's awesome. That's great," White said. "That's a real shot in the arm for a flight." Each flight costs about $100,000.

"Hopefully it will carry over to other areas that they can do it too," White said. "Anyone who's gone on a flight knows how much it means to these guys. And we're far from being finished. The only problem is keeping the money coming in."

The next Honor Flight is planned for Sept. 17 and booked up. Three more are anticipated for 2014 but yet to be scheduled. Each flight accommodates about 90 veterans and there is a waiting list of 250, including veterans from Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Grundy and the northern half of Tama counties

"We have enough (money) right now for a little over two flights" in 2014, White said. "It's important right now that we continue the push."

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