A group of Iowa veterans are preparing to fly to the nation’s capital Tuesday from central Iowa on an Honor Flight. The chairman of the Central and Western Iowa Honor Flight organization, Jeff Ballenger, says they will leave early. “Wheels up around 6:30 a.m. And we’ll be taking 395 World War Two and Korean veterans for an opportunity to see their memorial,” Ballenger says.
The veterans are checking in today in Des Moines, and then will board buses for a trip through Des Moines to Prairie Meadows in Altoona for a dinner. “The pre-flight dinner will start at 6 p.m. and will last about an hour-and-a-half. And we anticipate having around 950 people at the pre-flight dinner as the veterans are each able to bring somebody with them, and of course, we have our guardians who take care of the veterans,” Ballenger says.
Many World War Two veterans have already taken an Honor Flight from the area, and Ballenger says this flight catches up on those who couldn’t make past flights. “The folks who are going on this trip from World War Two, what they’re telling us is they were scheduled to go on an earlier flight and for health reasons just weren’t able to make that particular date,” Ballenger explains. “One interesting tidbit, we do have a World War Two veteran who is 101-years-old who is going on the flight with us.”
Ballenger asks everyone to show their support for the veterans and to pray for a safe trip. “These flights, while they are a lot of fun and there’s a great interest in them, they are not easy to do,” Ballenger says. “You’ve got men and women in their 80’s, some cases 90’s, and we just want to pray for their safety. We’ve got doctors on board, we’ve got EMTs, and we’ve got firemen.”
He says their goal for each flight is simple. “We really want to make sure each flight gets out there and back as safely as possible. And that the veterans have an enjoyable day in D.C.,” Ballenger says. He says with this flight they will have taken nearly 3,000 World War Two and Korean veterans to Washington, and raised just under three million dollars. Ballenger says the sponsorships of Hy-Vee, Caseys, Polk County, Knapp Properties and the Rassmussen group made this trip possible.