15 February 2008

$40,000 More Needed To Send Off First Honor Flight Fayette

Local WWII veterans will soon be flying to their new WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. as part of a national program headed up locally by a retired Fayette County school teacher and a local land surveyor

Honor Flight Fayette backers have the heart and the patriotic drive, but they need $40,000 by April in order to send the first wave of Fayette County veterans.

“We’ve already raised more than $11,000, but we have a long way to go,” said Gail Sparrow, a retired history teacher who took up this cause when she learned that America is losing about 1,200 WWII veterans per day. The effort here started just before Christmas 2007. Organizers estimate it will take a total of about $50,000 to send the first group of veterans, including airfare, ground transportation and other incidentals. Veterans travel free; all their expenses are paid for through donations. The first group is scheduled to go on May 14th.

“WWII veterans protected my freedom and my way of life and now it’s my time to say thank you for what they’ve done,” Sparrow said.

Mark Buckner, a local land surveyor who has joined Sparrow in her quest, is confident that Fayette County will come through for these heroes. Sparrow and Buckner formed a 501 c (3) non-profit organization and a board of directors to guide the effort.

“There are many retired military and other patriotic people in this county and I know they will answer this call,” Buckner said. “We are counting on the local business and corporate community to join us in a big way to help reach this important goal.”

The Honor Flight Fayette program is part of Honor Flight Network, a nationwide program started by one Ohio man to honor veterans in this way. As a certified non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible. Businesses, individuals or corporations interested in donating can contact Gail Sparrow at 770-461-6163 or Mark Buckner at 770-231-6708. Information about the local program can be found at www.honorflightfayette.org, and on the national program at www.honorflight.org.

Escorts will help veterans during the entire trip. Escorts will pay their own way at about $350 per person. Sparrow said they have enough escorts already, but stressed that they will need as many as 50 additional volunteers between now and the time the flight leaves.

“We’ll need volunteers of all ages to help develop rosters and deliver administrative information at least two weeks or so before the trip leaves,” she said. “They’ll help check veterans in at the staging area at First Methodist Church on the morning of the flight. They may need to assist getting them onboard buses, giving them small breakfast snacks and other such duties.”

Organizers also said they in need of in-kind donations as well, such as T-shirts, ball caps, balloons, coffee, snacks and other similar items. Interested donors can contact Gail Sparrow at 770-461-6163 or Mark Buckner at 770-231-6708.
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