O&A Honor Flight rais­ing funds for Wash­ing­ton, D.C. trip

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Janelle Jessen Staff Writer jjessen@nwadg.com

Siloam Springs Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion 2285 do­nated a $500 check to the Ok­la­homa and Arkansas Honor Flight on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is rais­ing money for its third honor flight to Wash­ing­ton D.C., and the sec­ond honor flight to leave from the North­west Arkansas Re­gional Air­port, ac­cord­ing to di­rec­tor Rob Hop­kins. The flight will be tak­ing 72 lo­cal vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing at least three vet­er­ans from Siloam Springs, on a tour of the memo­ri­als and mon­u­ments in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal on April 19.

The Chero­kee Casino in West Siloam Springs, Okla., will be host­ing a send-off cer­e­mony on the even­ing of April 18, and vet­er­ans will stay the night in do­nated ho­tel rooms so they can get an early start at 4:30 a.m. the next morn­ing. They will be bused to

the air­port, with an es­cort from lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies, Hop­kins said.

John Mor­ris, of Siloam Springs, a Pur­ple Heart Vet­eran of the Korean War, at­tended the check pre­sen­ta­tion on Satur­day along with Siloam Springs vet­er­ans Ben­nie Gal­lant and Bobby Sikes Jr., who both fought in the Viet­nam War. Mor­ris said that vis­it­ing the Korean War Me­mo­rial in Wash­ing­ton means “ev­ery­thing” to him.

Mor­ris vis­ited Wash­ing­ton once be­fore, but the Korean War Me­mo­rial had not been built at that point.

“I’ve got a lot of friends on that wall,” he said.

Sikes is look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing all the mon­u­ments, es­pe­cially the Tomb of the Un­known Soldier and the Viet­nam War Me­mo­rial.

“This is a once-in-al­ife­time trip,” said Sikes, who has never been to Wash­ing­ton.

It will be far from Gal­lant’s first trip to Wash­ing­ton. He served as a po­lice of­fi­cer in the city for a num­ber of years, but he is look­ing for­ward to see­ing the memo­ri­als, es­pe­cially the World War II Me­mo­rial.

To Gal­lant, the flight means that some­one loved the vet­er­ans enough to send them, he said.

It takes about $500 to send one vet­eran on the honor flight, Hop­kins said. Each vet­eran is es­corted by a guardian, ei­ther a fam­ily mem­ber or a vol­un­teer, who pays for their own travel ex­penses.

Brett Dun­can, a mem­ber of the lo­cal fire­fighter’s union, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion con­sid­ered it a priv­i­lege to con­trib­ute.

“It means the world to us,” he said.

Siloam Springs Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion 2285 is a part of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire­fight­ers. They work to raise money for causes such as Camp Sun­shine and to sup­port lo­cal fire­fight­ers.

Dun­can ap­proached his fel­low fire­fight­ers about do­nat­ing money to O&A Honor Flight after serv­ing as a guardian on a flight last year, ac­cord­ing to Tony Peevy-house, sec­re­tary of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The union mem­bers were im­me­di­ately on board with the idea, he said.

“Vet­er­ans are very in­spir­ing to us and we take honor in be­ing able to send a lo­cal vet­eran from Siloam Springs,” said Peevy-house.

O&A Honor Flight is still seek­ing fund­ing for the up­com­ing flight, Hop­kins said. For more in­for­ma­tion or to do­nate visit www.oa­honor­flight.org.

Janelle Jessen/

The Siloam Springs Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion 2285 do­nated a $500 check to the Ok­la­homa and Arkansas Honor Flight on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Mem­bers of VFW 1674 posted the col­ors.

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