The Central & Western Iowa Honor Flight committee today announced what will be its eighth and final flight of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. Bill Knapp, a Des Moines real estate developer and World War II vet, has donated the funds for the August 19th flight. Knapp told veterans gathered for the announcement he looks forward to visiting the six-year-old World War II memorial.
“I think we waited a long time for them to recognize what all of you have done, it took many years, but it’s gonna be great to go there. I’ve never been there,” Knapp said, “and I’m going to look forward to being with you and making this trip.”
Knapp joined the military at age 17 and served on a troop ship in the Pacific. “I think one of the things that I like about doing this is I know the sacrifice that you paid, and I was there first hand to see you do it,” Knapp said.
Knapp said he took the troops onto the beach and saw them run into enemy fire. Knapp’s duties also included bringing wounded and dead soldiers back to the ship — and he saw many soldiers buried at sea without their families ever knowing what happened to them.
“So there’s a lot of reasons for me to want to do this, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Knapp said, “God bless every one of you…nothing could be more important than the people of this country to give credit for what you have done, because without this and the things that you did during the war, we could easily be living under a dictatorship.”
Honor flight director, Jeff Ballenger, says they weren’t sure how they would ever get things going two years ago, but people and businesses have responded with $1.6 million in donations to make it work. Ballenger says by the time they get done with the eighth flight, over 2,000 veterans from central and western Iowa will have gone to Washington.
Veterans who have not had a chance to go on a flight can still apply. This last flight from Des Moines is nearly full, but there are other honor flights in the area which Iowans take. Ballenger says you can go to: www.centraliowahonorflight.org to get an application, or you can call 712-322-6638. The central and western Iowa committee is one of several across the state that have raised funds and organized the honor flights.