I’ve stated previously in this column that one of the greatest privileges I’ve had during my time as editor of The Opinion-Tribune was accompanying World War II veterans from southwest Iowa to Washington, D.C., in September 2008, on the inaugural Western Iowa Honor Flight.
It was a remarkable and touching day. Many of the veterans were overcome with emotion, not only at the World War II Memorial, but also during our visit to the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard ceremony.
The Honor Flight program was established so that World War II veterans could travel to our nation’s capital at no cost to see the memorial completed just a few years ago in their honor. The Southwest Iowa Honor Flight was actually an offshoot of the Heartland Honor Flight program started in Nebraska by Omahan Bill Williams and his wife, Evonne. They read about the program in a magazine and decided it was something they wanted to do for World War II vets living in Nebraska. Their interest in the program quickly carried over to western Iowa.
In all, the Williams’ Heartland Honor Flight Program made it possible for over 1,500 WWII veterans to go to Washington to see the memorial.
Next Sunday, Bill Williams, who is actually a native of Red Oak (ROHS Class of 1969), will be in Glenwood at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church to give a presentation on the Honor Flight program and to talk about another endeavor he and his wife have taken on, the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit – a photo display focusing on Nebraska and western Iowa service members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan during the War on Terror. The Remembering Our Fallen exhibit has led to the establishment of a new exhibit devoted exclusively to Iowa service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The The Fallen 78 Iowa exhibit, which includes tributes to two of Mills County’s fallen soldiers - Sgt. Joseph Milledge of Glenwood and Spc. James C. Kearney, III of Emerson - will be on display the first week of June in Council Bluffs and hopefully later this year in Mills County, possibly at the Mills County Historical Museum in Glenwood.
Williams’ presentation this Sunday at Holy Rosary Church begins at 11:30 a.m. and is open to the public. Those who attend will realize immediately that Williams is genuine and passionate in his appreciation for our veterans and active military personnel.