2nd Annual Franklin County Honor Flight Light The Way for Our Veterans

New Haven, Mo. -  Friday night Jim Tayon, Franklin County Honor Flight (FCHF) Board Member, read the names of veterans who were nominated by family members and friends followed by the lighting of a Christmas Tree, each bulb lit in their honor, at the American Legion Post 366 sponsored by Citizens Bank of New Haven.

The 2nd Annual Light The Way for Our Veterans not only serves as a way for someone to honor a veteran but also to help raise funds for the FCHF.

If you would like to make a donation you can visit Citizens Bank in New Haven or visit the FCHF’s website for more information.

The names of those honored at Friday night’s Lighting The Way for Our Veterans were:

Terry Dyson - Army
Arthur Pecaut - Army
Andrew Wilmesherr - Army
Milford “Red” Pointer - Army
Thomas McDonald - Army
Russell Pelster - Army
Adam Garner - Marines
Warren Mann - Army
Edward Kopmann - Army
Kenneth Kuhn - Army
Gary Kuhn - Army
Harold Kuhn - Army
Louis Speckhals - Army
Alfred Lagemann - Navy
Frederick (Fritz) Carey - Marines
John Carey - Navy
Earl Edmiston - Navy
Thomas Pate - Marine
John Engelbrecht - Air Force
Charles F. Weiser - Air Force
Michael F. Begemann - Marines
Marc Bates - Air Force
Curtis Kloppe - Navy
Lee R. Hahne - Marnies
Julius Braun - Army
Wray Quick - Navy
Zach Zuroweste - Navy
Bob Mueller - Army

Jim Tayon reads the names listed above.

The (FCHF) organization sole purpose is to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices by taking our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.

Last year the program started in Union, Washington, and Sullivan.  This year, Bourbon, St. Clair, and New Haven are also included. Today, we lit the tree in New Haven at the American Legion Post 366 sponsored by Citizens Bank, New Haven.

The tree lights represent veterans who may be nominated by family members and friends through forms available in the lobbies of the six business locations and also may be downloaded and printed from the Franklin County Honor Flight (FCHF) website: www.fchonorflight.org.

There is also an opportunity on the form for the person making the nomination to optionally donation $5 or more for each veteran.  A donation is not required to nominate a veteran.  The entire amount of the funds go to FCHF to be used exclusively for the benefit of veterans.  All nominated veterans will be listed in a January edition of The Missourian newspaper.

Several businesses cooperated with FCHF by providing the lights, signs, and labor to light the trees and advertise the program.

Bo-Co Electric, Union
Brune Electric, New Haven
Cassette Electric, Washington
Davis Electric, Sullivan
Firehouse Signs, St. Clair
K&D Machine and Tool, Union
Lowe’s, Washington
Orscheln Products, Moberly
Ziglin Signs, Washington
Businesses sponsoring each tree location
N-Sports Rec Center, Washington.
Farmers and Merchants Bank, St. Clair (Plaza Mall).
Citizens Bank, New Haven.  (Held at American Legion Post 366)
Peoples Bank, Bourbon. 
First National Community Bank (FCNB), Sullivan
Legends Bank, Union.

While FCHF is continually seeking ways to honor and show appreciation to our veterans such as this Light the Way for Our Veterans project, the primary mission is to fly America's veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices.

Top priority is given to America's most senior veterans--survivors of World War Two and then Korean War—who indicate a desire to visit their memorials.  Without the financial and/or physical assistance of Franklin County Honor Flight, many of these aging WWII and Korean War veterans would not have the opportunity to visit their memorials in Washington D.C. and, more importantly, would not have the opportunity to share the experience with their comrades.

While guardians serve their heroes three meals during the long day and provide any necessary assistance along the way, what most sparks smiles on the faces of veterans and a tear to their cheeks, is the continuous show of appreciation from those they encounter along the way.  Comments, hugs, kisses, hang-shaking, flag-waving, home-made banners, and picture-taking all convey the same emotional messages: "Thank you for serving.

Thank you for saving the world.  Thank you for your sacrifices.  We're glad to have you with us and we're proud of you."  Late in the evening at around 9:00 p.m., when their family members pick them up after a tremendous reception at Lambert Airport to take them home, their adrenalin is still pumping and they are buzzing with smiles and exclamations of happiness.  Their emotional remarks follow their experiences of the day:  Until today, I didn't think anyone cared. Today was the best day of my life.

We sometimes forget to say "Thank You."  But not today.  This show of appreciation to over 1100 Veterans over the past six  years would not have been possible without the generous cash donations from individuals and companies, the donation of time from hundreds of volunteers and unpaid staff, and donations of services from business entities in Franklin and surrounding counties.

At this Christmas season, there is no better way to explain the love and appreciation we Americans have for our veterans than one particular example from the archives of Franklin County Honor flight—the receipt of a $7.00 donation from an unnamed person in Illinois.

Stuffed in an envelope with no return address and no note, were seven crumpled-up one-dollar bills.  Without fanfare and without any desire for acknowledgement, someone probably quietly squeezed a few dollars out of their grocery money and made a very loud statement of love.

The motivation behind that anonymous gift, is the same thought behind the motto found on the FCHF T-Shirt: 

If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you're reading this in English, thank a veteran...before it's too late.

Franklin County Honor Flight, Inc. was founded in Union, Mo in 2007 and is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation.  All donations are tax deductible.  Honor Flight receives NO government funding, has no paid staff, and relies on individual participation in events such as this Christmas Tree project.

Describing a typical day, each veteran has the undivided attention of an escort, their "guardian" for the day and wheelchairs are provided as needed.  Their day starts early at about 3:00 a.m. with a chartered bus from Mid-American Coach in Washington.  Escorted by Missouri Highway Patrol Troopers, the party of 56 veterans and guardians proceeds to Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

They then board a commercial flight to Baltimore Washington International or Reagan National airports. Two hours later, at their destination, another chartered luxury coach is waiting to provide them a comfortable ride and the glorious events of the day as they tour the WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, and other memorials.  Touring culminates at the changing of the guard and a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.  Lastly, they enjoy a wholesome dinner and head for the return flight home and more surprises along the way. 

To learn about Honor Flights you may call Jim at 314-302-3858, Dave at 636-583-4242, or go online at www.fchonorflight.org. 

If you know a veteran interested in one of the free trips offered to Washington, D.C., or if you'd like to volunteer as a guardian, you may download the respective veteran or guardian application from the website.  The trip costs about $500 for each passenger.  Veterans, of course, are free, guardians pay their own way. 

Last year, Light the Way for Our Veterans raised funds necessary to send seven veterans to D.C.  This year, the goal is to fund 35 veterans requiring that we raise $17,500.

Jim Tayon, Board Member

Dave Hall, Board Member

Larry Davis, Board Member