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Korean War vets now making up majority on Honor Flights

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 13, 2014, at 10:47 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 13, 2014, at 2:35 p.m.

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A shift has begun for Kansas war veterans taking an Honor Flight.

For the first time since flights began six years ago, an Honor Flight from Kansas will be taking more Korean War veterans than World War II vets when it leaves this week for Washington, D.C.

Twenty-three Korean War veterans and four WWII vets will be on the flight that departs Wichita Mid-Continent Airport at 8 a.m. Wednesday for the three-day trip, said Mike VanCampen, president of Kansas Honor Flight.

“We’re very, very current with our WWII guys,” VanCampen said.

The national Honor Flight, a grassroots organization based in Springfield, Ohio, began operating in 2005 with the purpose of taking WWII veterans to see their memorials in the nation’s capital. A Kansas group from Great Bend became a hub for the flights in 2007 and continued through 2011 before disbanding the next year.

Hutchinson-based Kansas Honor Flight picked up the trips in 2012 and has taken more than 400 veterans – almost all WWII vets – on 13 flights, VanCampen said.

Even two weeks ago, a flight out of Wichita had all WWII veterans.

But as requests by WWII veterans to take part have been fulfilled, the local group has gradually shifted to taking vets of other wars. Korean War vets are next on the priority list, followed by those who served in Vietnam.

“We’re still giving World War II veterans priority,” VanCampen said, “but all the flights now will have a majority of Korean veterans.”

That’s not necessarily the trend for other hubs across the country, he said.

“It varies,” VanCampen said. “Some hubs aren’t caught up and are still taking mostly World War II guys.”

The veterans on this week’s trip will return on a flight that arrives at 11:10 a.m. Friday. The public is invited to greet the flight.

Three other flights are set in coming weeks – May 28-30, June 11-13 and June 25-27.

Veterans do not have to pay for the trip, but they must be accompanied by another person. That cost is $700.

For more information or to make an application for a flight, call 620-546-2400 or go to kansashonorflight.org.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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