River Valley Bank recently won $200 from raffle tickets the bank purchased for VFW Mar-Lin Post 10203’s annual fundraiser dance. The bank donated its winnings back to the Post, which added another $300. The Post then donated the $500 total to the Never Forgotten Honor Flight, which will pay for a Merrill area veteran to go on an upcoming flight to Washington, D.C.
“Because of donations like this, we are able to fly four times a year,” said Merrill native Jim Campbell, coordinator of the Honor Flight hub that serves 12 counties in northern Wisconsin.
Since 2010, 2,004 area veterans have been flown to Washington, D.C. on 22 flights. Those numbers include 973 World War II vets, 926 Korean War vets and 105 Vietnam vets. Priority is given to terminally ill veterans, followed by the older veterans on a first come, first serve basis. Interest in the Honor Flight remains strong, as does the support from communities in the area.
“As long as veterans are signing up, we’re flying,” Campbell said.
The Never Forgotten Honor Flight is completely organized by volunteers and supported wholly by donations. Each flight costs about $85,000, with no cost to the veterans.
As of December 2015, the Never Forgotten Honor Flight had received support from more than 4,500 different donors. Seventy of them do annual fundraising events for the organization. The Honor Flight board of directors does no fundraising activities.
Campbell noted that, while hubs in other parts of the country have already shut down, those in Wisconsin are still going strong due to the support they receive.
The only qualification to go on the flight is to be a veteran who served during wartime.
“It’s not just for combat veterans, but anyone who served during those years (Merchant Marines, 1941-1945; WWII, 1941-1946; Korea, 1950-1955; and Vietnam, 1961-1975),” Campbell said.