DES MOINES - Officials with Hy-Vee, Inc. and Casey's General Stores recently announced plans to jointly sponsor another Honor Flight trip for military veterans.
The announcement came at a recent news conference held at the World War II Memorial Plaza just east of the Iowa Capitol.
Hy-Vee and Casey's will share the $250,000 cost of transporting 300 or more veterans of World War II to Washington, D.C. to visit the nation's monuments honoring their military service. The Central Iowa Honor Flight organization is coordinating the trip, which is scheduled to leave Des Moines early on Tuesday, August 17 and return late the same day.
Hy-Vee sponsored Honor Flights in August and November of last year, and Casey's sponsored a flight in October. At the conclusion of the third flight, organizers thought they had accommodated all World War II veterans from central Iowa who wished to make the trip. But the applications just kept coming, said Jeff Ballenger, Central Iowa Honor Flight coordinator.
"Casey's and Hy-Vee both indicated their willingness to continue supporting the program," Ballenger said. "We are so pleased to have two great Iowa companies working together in service to our veterans."
Wes Snook, director of the Ankeny Hy-Vee store, said the company's experience with Central Iowa Honor Flight has led to similar partnerships between Hy-Vee stores and Honor Flight programs in other areas of the Midwest.
"When we first learned of the Honor Flight program a year ago, our immediate reaction was that every World War II veteran who wanted to make this trip should have the opportunity to do so," Snook said. "That's why we think it's so important to step forward with the funding and the volunteers to make this happen. These veterans willingly made sacrifices to secure our freedom, and this trip is just a small way of showing our thanks."
Mike Richardson, vice president of marketing for Casey's, thanked Hy-Vee for laying the groundwork that led to Casey's involvement with Honor Flight.
"The sponsorship of the Honor Flight was one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever personally participated in, and I know the employees of Casey's General Stores share the same feeling," Richardson said. "The letters, emails and phone calls of appreciation we received from the veterans just confirmed to me that they really are the greatest generation."
Ballenger said Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino has volunteered to sponsor the send-off dinner for the Honor Flight participants on the evening of August 16. Among the participants on the upcoming Honor Flight will be the five Gass brothers of Des Moines and Urbandale - Wayne, Darrell, Warren and twins Roger and Ron - who all served in World War II.
Ballenger noted that the Central Iowa Honor Flight organization is composed entirely of volunteers. Over the last two years, the organization has raised $1.4 million and sent nearly 1,800 World War II veterans to Washington, DC.
"It's the least we can do, to sacrifice one day of our lives to say 'thank you' for a lifetime of freedom," Ballenger said.
The Central Iowa Honor Flight organization is accepting applications from veterans who would like to participate in the August 17th Honor Flight. For more information, visit the organization's website: www.centraliowahonorflight.org.