May 6, the inaugural Honor Flight of Central Oregon will leave Redmond airport with up to 25 World War II and Korean War veterans for a two-day visit to Washington, D.C.
It’s not the first Honor Flight for this region, which has been taking vets to view the D.C. war memorials for about 15 years, but the first leave from Redmond.
And, Alaska Airlines will land in its specially designed Honor Flight aircraft for the veterans in Redmond, who will fly to Seattle, then board a larger jet for the flight back to the nation’s capital. They will return on May 9.
Marine Dane Prevatt, one of the organizers for the trip, said the trips are free to the vets, but guardians who help them along the way pay $1,200. Overall, cost to Central Oregon Honor Flight is about $70,000 for the airline tickets, wheelchair rentals, bus transportation, meals and hotel rooms. A medical doctor and a nurse will travel with the group.
The organizers are about $10,000 short on funds this year, but continue to fundraise and seek donors.
“This is my fourth year with the Honor Flights,” Prevatt said. “It’s costing us about $13,000 more to fly out of Redmond than out of Portland, but we want our donors to be part of the send off, to see where their money is going. We want people to see what we are doing, because it is truly a phenomenal thing.”
Paid through fund-raising
This flight is for World War II and Korean Veterans, said Prevatt. Next year, will be the first year that Vietnam-era veterans can participate. There are about 4,000 vets from that war in Central Oregon.
“As for fundraising, we are fortunate that we have people who already know about it, so we get (a foundation of) funds. But we go around and talk to people one-on-one, too. Dutch Bros coffee in Bend is our largest contributor, giving about $40,000 over the last three years,” Prevatt said. He, too, works for the coffee distributor.
Prevatt, 47, enlisted with the 1st Battalion Marine Corps from 1990 to 1994. In 1994, he was in Peleliu for a 50th Anniversary of that Pacific Theater campaign and met three Congressional Medal of Honor veterans.
“So I had some understanding of what they went through. Then, while working for Robberson Ford in the collision center, I met local veteran Bob Maxwell who’s car had struck a deer. He knew some of those Medal of Honor vets. Then, I went on an honor flight with about 50 veterans in 2015 as a guardian and it was a life-changing experience for me,” he said. “It really affected me by taking these guys to D.C.”
Guardians are key
Hal Hawkins of Redmond joined the Marines when he was 18 in 1947 and traveled all over Asia, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. He was a specialist in communications intelligence.
Now, at 91, he’s looking forward to seeing the military memorials.
“I’m excited for it and and my son, Jim, will be my guardian,” Hawkins said. “He spent four years in the Army in Germany during the Vietnam War. He’s anxious to go back to D.C., too.”
The key is to have guardians — volunteers or family members — who can help move the veterans around from site to site. Most are seated in wheelchairs for ease of movement around the city, but the guardians have to be in decent physical shape to do that.
Robert Tyler of Bend was in the Navy on a transport ship heading to Korea in 1953 when the war ended.
“They knew we were coming, so they ended the war,” he said. “I had just graduated from UCLA and there was a massive call up and I had lost my college deferment at the time.”
His team participated in the prisoner of war exchange following the war. He later went to work for Lockheed aircraft in California.
He and his wife, Louise, will be part of the Honor Flight. Tyler, 90, said he’s been looking forward to it, as he’s followed it over the years and talked with other vets about the experience.
“I hope the cherry blossoms are out when we’re there,” he said.
About the trip
The veterans will tour the Capitol, meet with Rep. Greg Walden, and visit the WWII, Korean, several Armed Services memorials, the Pentagon and 911 memorial, Lincoln memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. They will have front row seats at the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
A reporter from Central Oregon Daily News will be embedded with the group as will a social media editor who will be sending back live and updated photos from the trip. Each vet is given a commemorative book of photos and memorabilia after the visit.
To sign up for future flights, volunteer as a guardian, or for more information, visit www.honorflightofcentraloregon.org