WASHINGTON — The largest single-day Honor Flight in history is cleared for takeoff.
Volunteer organizers Bill and Evonne Williams announced Monday that the $500,000 fundraising goal has been met for the event on March 25, when three charter airplanes will carry 460 Korean War veterans to the nation's capital.
“The old saying that Korea is the forgotten war — not in Nebraska,” Bill Williams said.
Those on the trip will visit the Korean War Memorial that honors their service and take a group photo on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the Nebraska congressional delegation.
They also plan to visit several other service memorials and Arlington Cemetery, where several Gold Star parents will make a special side trip to Section 60. That's where many of America's war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
The Williamses organized the series of Honor Flights that ferried 1,500 of the state's World War II veterans to Washington several years ago to visit the memorial to their service. That led to a flight of 135 Nebraska Korean War veterans last year. Fundraising for that first Korea trip went slowly, but after some public attention the money started flowing.
Midlands Community Foundation has been handling donations for the flight. Bill Williams said the foundation reported contributions for this trip coming in from across the state, often in $5 or $20 increments.
“This thing has just taken off like crazy,” Bill Williams said.
A couple of large donations delivered a boost for the effort, including $100,000 from retired Kiewit executive Bill Grewcock and $200,000 from Ted Hubbard, a South Bend, Neb., investor.
A total of 581 people will make this month's trip, including the guardians who will assist the veterans.
Organizers are mindful that the veterans they are seeking to honor aren't getting any younger. Five veterans who had been invited for this trip have died, Williams said.
“There's the urgency factor,” he said. “The longer you wait, the more guys don't get to go.”
When the veterans arrive back at Eppley Airfield, they will receive a hero's welcome home with flag-waving crowds, a band, bagpipers and a color guard.
“We'll give them a show,” Williams said.