Greater Saint Louis Honor Flight, Inc. (GSLHF), a non-profit group of volunteers who transport America’s veterans to Washington, D. C. memorials that honor their sacrifices, received a $10,000 boost this week. Funds donated through the “Sharing Success” grant program by Cuivre River Electric Cooperative of Troy, Mo. and financial partner CoBank of Denver, Co., nearly covered the costs for 23 local veterans who took the Honor Flight this week.
America’s most senior veterans – survivors of World War II – and terminally ill veterans who wish to visit their memorial are top priority. “We were gratified to learn that 19 World War II veterans were on the flight,” says Kevin Hurd of Cuivre River. He presented the check to GSLHF volunteers October 22 as veterans, their flight guardians and volunteers prepared to land at the St. Louis Lambert International East Terminal. Three Korean War veterans and one Vietnam veteran were also part of the group.
“Honor Flights are funded by donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and groups like Cuivre River and CoBank who want to honor these heroes,” says GSLHF Chairman Emeritus Harry Hope. “They recognize the need to send our veterans to Washington D. C. to visit their memorial before it is too late,” he adds. “We’re very concerned about locating World War II veterans who have not had this opportunity, and hope to hear from more of them,” says Hope.
Veterans are encouraged to contact an Honor Flight representative at 636.230.2466. “We’re a volunteer staff, but we return every call,” says GSLHF Director and Operations Manager Rolando Lopez.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, our nation loses nearly 900 veterans every day. “Many have never seen the national memorials built in their honor. It’s our mission to ensure our local American heroes get this opportunity,” says Hope. He and other volunteers continue to recruit World War II veterans for the journey, and hope to transport them on an Honor Flight in 2014.
GSLHF plans 10 flights each year. Its final 2013 flight is scheduled the first week of November. Travel will resume in April and run through November 2014 with a short hiatus during the hottest part of the summer.
The memorials are outdoors, and the trip makes for a long day. Veterans visit the National World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Air Force Memorial, U. S. Marine Corps War Memorial, National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. “We always hope for nice weather,” says GSLHF volunteer and guardian Heather Johnson.
GSLHF has conducted 23 Honor Flights, taking more than 550 local veterans on the journey. “We are committed to finding the financial resources to fulfill our veterans’ dreams of visiting their memorials,” says Lopez. Although the primary focus is on World War II veterans and service members with a terminal illness, the long-term goal is to provide the service to those who served during the Korean War, Vietnam War and recent conflicts. “They, too, have sacrificed and we want to make sure their contributions to our nation’s freedom are not forgotten,” says Lopez.
GSLHF is a non-profit 510c (3) organization, part of the National Honor Flight Network founded in 2009 to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. General protocols, policies and credentialing, and administration of the application programs are managed by an eight-member volunteer board of directors.
Volunteers perform a variety of tasks, from departure to arrival logistics, to administering travel details and communicating with veterans as the trip approaches. Guardians also play an important role during the Honor Flight. Each veteran is appointed a guardian who is trained and responsible for physically assisting the veteran with a walker or wheelchair, stairs, medication and ensuring the veteran has a safe and memorable experience. Guardians receive no financial assistance and are responsible for their Honor Flight costs.
GSLHF receives no government funding and relies strictly on donations, which are tax-deductible. Contributions can be sent to: Greater Saint Louis Honor Flight, Inc., 36 Four Seasons, Box 272, Chesterfield, MO 63017. For information about volunteering or Honor Flight Veteran Application Forms visit www.gslhonorflight.org or call 636.230.2466.
“We are so thankful to partner with Cuivre River and CoBank to provide this opportunity to our veterans. The generous grant will have a positive impact on our veterans – one that words simply cannot describe,” says Hope. Each partner contributed $5,000.
Cuivre River General Manager/CEO Dan L. Brown says, “We are very appreciative of CoBank’s mission of sharing their success to benefit our members and the communities we serve. We strive daily to follow the core cooperative principle ‘Commitment to our Community’.”
“Sharing Success is a hallmark of the cooperative business model,” says CoBank President and CEO Robert B. Engel. “Throughout rural America, cooperatives are working not only to provide value to their members but to improve the quality of life for people in their local communities. We’re delighted that Cuivre River has taken advantage of the Sharing Success program and is using it to support such a worthy cause.”
Cuivre River Electric Cooperative provides electricity to more than 60,000 homes and businesses in Lincoln, Pike, St. Charles and Warren counties in Missouri. For information visit www.cuivre.com or call 800.392.3709.
CoBank, headquartered near Denver, Co. is a $90 billion cooperative bank servicing vital industries across rural American. For more information visit www.cobank.com.