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Earth Team Volunteers Drive the Success of the Honor Flights in Kansas

Earth Team Volunteers Drive the Success of the Honor Flights Program in Kansas

Kenton Janzen, a farmer from Lorraine, Kansas, had an idea for a project for the Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development Council in the spring of 2008. His idea was for the Council's non-profit status to work with the National Honor Flights Program (Honor Flights). The Council members quickly realized that this was not a project that would benefit our land, our water, or our air, but since it was definitely something that could benefit the human capital, the rich history, and the patriotism of the region, they supported it. Central Prairie RC&D Council leaders wanted to affect the manner in which youth and others as volunteers might achieve a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices many people have made for this nation.

The Central Prairie Honor Flights, representing most of Kansas, was established and has taken the lead in flying World War (WW) II, Korean-, and Vietnam-era veterans to see the memorials that honor them. During the first seven months of this project, over $104,000 was raised from donations, and a total of 213 WWII veterans and their guardians were flown on four separate trips to Maryland, Washington, and northern Virginia. The goal of Honor Flights is for the veterans to go at absolutely no cost to them.

Since the Central Prairie RC&D Council has no employees of its own and only one federal project coordinator to accomplish the monumental task of identifying the thousands of veterans to fly to the memorials and of raising the over half million dollars needed to transport them, it expanded operations to use volunteers throughout Kansas.

Hundreds of volunteers are spending countless hours researching trips, interfacing with commercial carriers, developing brochures, speaking at public meetings about the Honor Flights, and developing media resources with television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. They are also seeking out veterans, identifying their special needs and family information, signing them up, organizing flights, keeping them informed, transporting them to the memorials, and delivering them safely home. After the trip is over, volunteers are videotaping interviews with the veterans and assisting them with their tabloid, which involves a write-up of their war experiences and their post-war testimony. They are then advancing this documentation to the National Archives/National Park Service and the Library of Congress.

In the last six months to achieve the Council's quest of honoring our veterans by flying 750 to Washington in early June, 241 volunteers in 32 Kansas counties have contributed 3,140 hours and have helped raise an additional $82,000.

Earth Team Volunteers: (left to right) Louis Black, Larry Drescher, Vaught Duncan, and Paul Grace. Veterans serving as earth team volunteers
Veteran Vaughn Duncan shares 2nd Infantry 5th Division crest "noli me tangere" meaning "Touch me not" before making campaign for Honor Flight advertising with fellow veterans, who are serving as Earth Team Volunteers, and LaVeta Miller. Fellow veterans are (left to right): Larry Drescher, Lois Black, Paul Grace. Earth Team volunteers preparing Honor Flight materials.