Residents of Jasper County in central Iowa raised over $90,000 in five months to send 162 local war veterans to Washington, D.C. today. Doug Bishop helped organize the “freedom flight” for vets to visit monuments erected in their honor in the nation’s capital. He told the veterans and others gathered for a ceremony at the Newton High School that the trip is the community’s way of saying “thank you.”
“For your unquestioned service to our country, we want to say thank you. For the nights you slept in a fox hole, a Navy Bunk or an Air Force hangar, we want to say thank you. For being men of great honor, thank you. For protecting the freedoms we hold so dearly, thank you,” Bishop said.
The effort to support the flight entirely with local funds is unique. “As far as we know, we are the only group in the entire nation that – as a county – has come together and taken our Korea and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans,” Bishop told the cheering crowd. The flight may not have been possible without a $20,000 donation from Maxine Swanger.
Bishop met Swanger at one of the last “freedom flight” committee meetings. He told the audience about their conversation: “It looked like we were going to be twenty thousand dollars short and she said, ‘how about that?’ And I said, ‘how about what?’ She said, ‘how about twenty thousand dollars?” A total of 76 Korean War veterans signed up for the flight along with 74 Vietnam vets, five World War Two veterans and seven local veterans of other wars.
By Randy Van, KCOB, Newton