MARION — Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois is looking for donors, veterans, guardians and volunteers.
Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit network of organizations created to honor American veterans by transporting them to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only 620,000 were alive in 2016, and they are dying quickly. The National World War II Museum estimates that 372 World War II veterans die each day.
Priority is given to World War II veterans and veterans who are terminally ill.
Locally, the Southern Illinois group has tentatively scheduled its first flight for April 25. The flight will depart about 6 a.m. and return in Marion between 9 and 9:30 p.m. They are raising money to pay for the flight.
Pepsi MidAmerica and Black Diamond Harley Davidson will give away a 2017 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 in a raffle to help raise funds. Tickets are $25 each and will be available Monday, and the winner will be drawn March 31.
On March 14, 17th Street Barbecue in Marion will donate 10 percent of all food sales to Honor Flight.
Marion Veterans of Foreign Wars will host a dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. March 10, with food catered by 17th Street Barbecue in Marion. Tickets are $15 and proceeds will go to Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois.
Pass Heating and Cooling will donate $10 for every service call and $50 for every installation until March, then match that amount up to $5,000.
Bob Bordenave, a volunteer with Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois, said the biggest cost will be the airplane. They will also incur costs for items on the first flight, such as wheelchairs or certain medical equipment.
“We hope to be able to set it up, so we can get larger corporate sponsors, kind of like HerrinFesta Italiana,” Bordenave said.
The group also is looking for veterans and guardians to sign up for the trip. There is no cost for veterans to take the trip. Guardians are asked to pay a portion of the cost of a trip. Registration is simple and can be completed online.
The group hopes to take 20 veterans with 20 guardians, along with medical personnel and others. That will fill a 50 passenger plane.
“We want a lot of fanfare for departure and arrival,” Brodenave said. “Any community support would be great.”
The group would like volunteers with flags, dressed in patriotic colors to cheer on veterans upon departure and arrival in April. Now, they need donors.
Donations to Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois can be made on the group’s website or at any People’s National Bank location.