Local heroes take a trip to remember
Veterans Norman Ashcraft and James Meyer recently participated in the Honor Flight program. The two each had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to view the war memorials.
Decades after they served in the United States armed forces, men and women veterans are celebrated for the sacrifices they made for our country. Through the national organization, Honor Flight Network, veterans have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.
Recently, two Sabetha veterans were able to participate in the Honor Flight, along with supervising guardians. Korean veteran Norman Ashcraft and Vietnam veteran James Meyer both enjoyed their opportunities to participate in the Honor Flights. These trips can be made possible by local donations through the Sabetha chapter of the Kansas Honor Flight Organization, an affiliate of the national organization or other organizations throughout the state. Guardians are responsible for paying for their own trip.
Korean veteran Norman Ashcraft participated in the Honor Flight May 15-18. Jay Herrmann made the trip with him. Ashcraft, a Navy veteran, said the highlights of his trip included the archive museum, Fort McHenry, Korean Memorial, changing of the guard and the Arlington Cemetery.
“Starting out, the Lord cleansed all of us old vets as it rained 24/7 while we were there,” Ashcraft said.
On Day One of the trip, the group traveled to Baltimore, Md., and ate lunch. Then, they visited Fort McHenry, an old fort that had cannons and cannon balls, Ashcraft said.
“They were from three inches to 13 inches in size,” he added.
On Day Two, Ashcraft said they received a wake-up call to eat breakfast. Then, they visited the archive museum.
“The archive museum was awesome — the Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.,” he said. “The changing of the Guard also was awesome. To be one of them, you have to sign that you will not smoke, drink or cuss the rest of your life.”
Arlington Cemetery “stretched every way you looked,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft is thankful for the opportunity to go on the Honor Flight and gives special thanks to Mary and Jay Herrmann, the Sabetha Kansas Honor Flight coordinators, as well as Ashcraft’s guardians for the trip.
“I would like to thank everyone who made my trip possible. There were enough funds raised already to send three more veterans,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft’s military experience
Ashcraft joined the Navy at age 17 and served from 1954 through 1957 at the end of the Korean War on the USS Toledo, a heavy cruiser.
“I spent three cruises in the Pacific, was a personnel man and was the captain’s phone talker when we were in battle,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft and his wife Linda have been married for 19 years, and they have lived in Sabetha for 13 years. The couple has four sons between them — Andrew Garber of Maumelle, Ark., Doug Ashcraft of Topeka, and David Ashcraft and Dennis Ashcraft, both of Holton.
Vietnam veteran James Meyer participated in the Honor Flight June 27-29. His daughter, Dayra Menold, accompanied him as his guardian. Meyer, an Army veteran, said the highlights of the trip were meeting and visiting other veterans and flight leaders and seeing the memorials.
They enjoyed getting to know Mike and Connie VanCampen, the flight leaders. M. VanCampen is the president of the Kansas Honor Flight and his goal is to get the Kansas Veterans to Washington, D.C. He has led approximately 46 trips.
For Meyer, Mail Call added a meaningful touch to the trip. In his active military days, getting mail from home was so special. He remembers his comrades bringing him their popcorn.
Menold said, for her, The Empty Chair had a huge impact. The Empty Chair is a physical symbol of the thousands of American Prisoners of War or Missing in Action soldiers still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States.
“All of the memorials are fantastic — well thought out and created beautifully,” Meyer and Menold said. They especially enjoyed the World War II Memorial, Honorary Memorial to the nurses of Vietnam and National Archives.
Meyer’s favorite was the National Archives and he said the traveling Vietnam exhibit brought back a lot of memories.
“Washington, D.C., is a beautiful city. It is peaceful and a pleasant place to visit,” Menold said. “I encourage any veteran to step forward, especially if you have not been there, and take this opportunity to visit.”
Meyer’s military experience
Meyer joined the Army and served as a sergeant combat engineer. He departed Oakland, Calif., on a crew ship on the USS Barrett. This was the last crew ship to voyage.
“We were on the Pacific Ocean for 21 days,” Meyer said. “When we arrived on the coast of Vietnam, we had our backpacks on and we slid down rope to the beach and climbed over a dune and walked right into the cargo chute of a C130. I was stationed in Blackhorse, Vietnam.”
Some of the tasks were to clear mine fields, repair bridges and culverts, and to put together Medivacs or emergency buildings – which were sponsored by Hallmark Cards.
Meyer returned home in the fall of 1969.
Meyer and his wife Karol live in Sabetha. Meyer has three children — Dayra Menold and Alan Meyer, both of Sabetha, and Larry Meyer of Bern.
Sabetha Kansas Honor Flight
The Sabetha Honor Flight group’s mission is to raise funds to send local veterans on the Honor Flight. The group formed in 2018. To date, the group has sent Ashcraft and Meyer. In September, Sabetha veteran Dan Anderson will make the trip with his daughter Cindi Baker.
To raise money for flights for Ashcraft, Meyer and Anderson, the Sabetha Kansas Honor Flight group accepted donations and helped neighborhood children organize a bake sale and lemonade stand earlier this summer.
How to help local veterans
The Honor Flight Organization’s goal is to send veterans free of charge. Because of this, donations from the public are greatly needed to support these veterans. Locally, support can be given through these fundraising opportunities:
• Kansas Honor Flight T-shirt Fundraiser: T-shirts are available in adult sizes. The shirts cost $25, which can be made payable to Andee Rettele, P.O. Box 154, Fairview, KS 66425; or via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. All funds raised are to send local veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C.
• Magnet Fundraiser: Magnets can be purchased four for $10. To purchase, contact Mary Herrmann at 785-285-0646.
• Greater Sabetha Community Foundation: An account has been created through the GSCF under “Kansas Honor Flight – Sabetha Chapter.” To donate to this account, visit the GSCF website at www.sabethafoundation.org.
For more information about the Sabetha Honor Flight, follow the Facebook page at Sabetha Kansas Honor Flight or contact M. Herrmann at 785-285-0646 or Jay Herrmann at 785-285-0647.
Kansas Honor Flight
Kansas Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for their sacrifices. This is an affiliate of the Honor Flight Network. The organization helps to transport our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials free of cost.
This fall, the cost for the flight will increase from $750 to $800 per person. The fee covers airfare, food, lodging and ground transportation to war memorials and other points of interest while in Washington, D.C., for three days. Flights occur April through June and September through November. Oxygen and wheelchairs are provided, along with medical staff.
Veterans, as well as guardians, must complete an application.
More than 700 Kansas veterans have signed up and are waiting for their flights. The top priority is given to senior veterans, along with those who are terminally ill. After those veterans have spots on flights, the next priority is given by date the application is received at the Kansas Honor Flight office.
To be eligible for the Honor Flight, veterans must have served during the following years of war: World War II (Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946); Korean War (June 25, 1950, to Jan. 31, 1955); or the Vietnam War (Feb. 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975).
For more information or to complete an application, visit http://www.kansashonorflight.org.