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The Suburbanite
  • Final Honor Flight to take off at Akron-Canton Airport

  • After its final flights from Akron-Canton Airport Saturday for Washington, D.C., Honor Flight CAK will have flown more than 1,100 World War II veterans to the nation’s capital to see the World War II Memorial and other monuments.

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  • When a chartered airliner takes off from Akron-Canton Airport on Saturday morning for Washington, D.C., the final Honor Flight CAK will leave a large legacy of caring and respect for World War II veterans.
    Later in the day, with the completion of that flight — the third flight sponsored by J.M. Smucker Co. — Honor Flight CAK will have flown more than 1,100 World War II veterans to the nation’s capital to see the World War II Memorial and other monuments.
    “This is my 12th flight,” said Valerie Street Kinney of Jackson Township, who went on her first flight in 2007 from Dayton, then served as a volunteer guardian that year on an Honor Flight from Akron-Canton. She has been director of Honor Flight CAK, a nonprofit organization, for the nine other Honor Flight trips taken from Akron-Canton Airport since 2008, including this final flight.
    The list of veterans wanting to go on an Honor Flight has been lengthy ever since the flights began departing from Akron-Canton.
    “We’d take more than 100 on each flight, but every time we’d go, we’d get over 100 more veterans signing up,” said Kinney.
    The end of that waiting list has been reached, she noted. The final veterans will depart early Saturday morning and Kinney hopes many members of the public will show up at Akron-Canton Airport to welcome them home when the plane lands a little after 8 p.m.
    “It’s a happy and sad time,” said Kinney. “We feel good about what we accomplished. We’ve gotten more than 1,000 veterans to Washington.
    “The sad part is that we’re losing the generation.”
    HUMBLE BEGINNING
    The Honor Flight Network was the idea of Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain living in Springfield, Ohio, noted Kinney. Morse was a physician assistant at a veterans clinic who interacted often with World War II veterans.
    After the World War II Memorial in Washington was completed in 2004, Morse routinely asked veterans if they had seen it. Often, veterans said they had not — could not because of financial or physical reasons.
    So, in 2005, Morse, a pilot, began providing the veterans free transportation to their memorial — first in a handful of small aircraft flying from Dayton, and then on chartered airliners departing from dozens of Honor Flight hubs throughout the country.
    “It is our mission to serve those who served our country,” Morse explains at the Honor Flight website, “by providing them a day, free of cost, to visit their memorial with their comrades.”
    LOCAL HUB
    Flights from Akron-Canton have been paid for mostly from contributions by individuals and businesses, said Kinney.
    “We haven’t really had to do any fundraising,” said Kinney. In addition to the trio of Smucker flights, one flight was funded by the Timken Foundation. “Mostly the rest have been paid for with donations.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Honor Flight CAK tried to offer a spring and fall flight, said Kinney.
    “We did two a year. Last year we did one. The year before that, we did three, and that was because HBO had contacted Honor Flight and wanted 250 World War II veterans who served in the Pacific.”
    The cable television network paid for veterans to fly from five hubs to promote its 2010 TV series “The Pacific.”
    “We had close to 100 hubs at that time, and we were one of the five chosen,” said Kinney. 
    James Tedrick of Louisville, who served in the Navy’s amphibious forces and participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima, was one of the veterans chosen to take the trip, a flight which was unusual because it was three days instead of one.
    “We were treated like royalty,” said Tedrick. “They took us around to all the monuments. They did everything they could to make it a meaningful experience.”
    MEMORIES REMAIN
    Volunteer guardians accompany veterans on each flight, and bus captains organize transportation to the several monuments that veterans
    visit. Many of the volunteers have been with Honor Flight CAK for most of the years it has existed, said Kinney.
    Diane Julian and her husband, Troy, have served as bus captains for most of the Akron-Canton Honor Flights, she said.
    Julian carries close to her heart one memory of a past flight.
    “We were at the World War II memorial, and there was a class of middle school students, a group of young men who came up and asked one veteran, ‘Can we shake your hand?’ The vet looked at me like, ‘Why are they doing this?’ I smiled and nodded my head and he shook their hands. I teared up. Every single one of them said ‘Thank you.’ ”
    Derald Kraft of Jackson Township, an Army Air Corps veteran, experienced a similar greeting. He flew on an Honor Flight from Akron-Canton in May.
    “He was almost in tears when he got home, he was so touched by the way the veterans were treated everyplace they went,” said his wife, Lorna. “He said, ‘I’ve never been hugged and kissed so much in my life.’”