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Send off planned for local WWII veterans on Honor Tour to Washington, D.C.
Organizers of a World War II veterans trip to the nation's capital are hoping for a large turnout from the community during a send-off program at Jackson High School on Friday morning.
A tour bus carrying veterans from six states led by a fleet of motorcycles and law-enforcement and military vehicles will arrive at the high school event center shortly after 8:15 a.m. Friday. Awaiting them will be six veterans from Cape Girardeau and Jackson.
The 30 veterans traveling on the bus to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will have an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., thanks to the Honor Tour.
The bus will be making stops in Poplar Bluff, Mo., Dexter, Mo., and Sikeston, Mo., before coming to Jackson. From Jackson it will go to the airport in St. Louis.
While in Washington, the veterans will visit the World War II Memorial, which honors the 16 million soldiers who fought as well as those who supported the war effort from home. Each state is recognized with inscriptions on the memorial, set on a plaza more than 330 feet long and 240 feet wide. The memorial is on the National Mall in Washington.
Honor Tour founder Rob Callahan of Poplar Bluff said the event is a way to thank those who served in World War II, including many who will visit that memorial for the first time.
"For the veterans it's an emotional roller coaster," said Callahan, who served in the Air Force for 20 years. "Sometimes there's many, many tears being shed and the next minute they're laughing. They've waited over 60 years for this memorial and the Honor Tour is the least we can do to say thanks for all they do for our country."
The three-day, two-night trip also includes visits to other memorials, museums and landmarks, lodging, all meals and motor coach transportation. The trip costs about $800 per veteran.
Callahan said donations are essential to making the Honor Tour happen. He said he hopes to make another Honor Tour trip in June if another $20,000 is raised by late May.
"Nothing can happen without donations," Callahan said. "But our waiting list is two years long. And since the average age of the veterans is 83, we're running out of time. Time is of the essence and not on our side. We're losing 1,500-plus World War II veterans a day nationwide."
Dave Hitt, who helps coordinate logistics of the Honor Tour and has been on the trip, said the public should not discount the importance of Friday's send off. The 45-minute program will include hundreds of students displaying American flags, World War II music by the group Replica, bagpipe playing, recognition of the veterans, posting of colors by the Marine Corps League and presentation of caps embroidered with the words "WWII veteran" on the front and "Honor Tour" on the back.
"It's emotional to see the reception the public gives these World War II veterans," Hitt said. "These older gentlemen and women really get into everyone attending the send off here and when they're thanked by people in other parts of the country. It's hard to explain."
Donations to help send a World War II veteran on an Honor Tour trip may be sent to Stoddard County Development Foundation, P.O. Box 625, Bloomfield, MO 63825.
315 South Missouri St., Jackson, MO