Honoring a local veteran within our community

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, May 22, 2015

Every year, countless Hoosiers spend Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Whether it was relaxing by the pool, going to a park or just enjoying the outdoors, it is important to remember the true meaning of the holiday—to reflect and honor those men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service to their country.

As your state representative, I have always advocated for our veterans who fought –and continue to fight– for the freedoms we hold so dear. Recently, I had the opportunity to honor my friend and local Korean War veteran, Alvin Blanken, and thank him for his selfless service to our state by accompanying him on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

Honor Flight Tri-State is a non-profit organization that provides free transportation for veterans so that they can travel to our nation’s capital and visit the memorials that stand in their honor. They serve all veterans above the age of 65 in the tri-state area, which includes southeast Indiana, and give special consideration to World War II (WWII) and Korean War veterans. The organization is part of the National Honor Flight Network that has flown over 100,000 veterans from over 100 hubs across the nation.

Along with nearly 70 veterans, Alvin and I boarded a flight to Washington D.C., where we were greeted by a group of local volunteers from the Honor Flight Network. After we arrived, we traveled by bus to the memorials that honor each respective veteran, including Vietnam, Iwo Jima and the Korean and WWII war memorials. We also had the opportunity to see the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.  It was such a wonderful experience to visit each memorial with the veterans as they paid their respects to those that made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.

One of the most memorable parts of the Honor Flight was our return trip back to the airport. As we stepped off the plane and walked into the terminal, a large welcome home reception was waiting for us, including many of the veterans’ families, children and spouses. Over 100 people crowded around and clapped as a marching band played in honor of their service. It was a day they truly will never forget, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

All of the organizations affiliated with the Honor Flight Network do not charge veterans for any expenses during their trip. They are volunteer-based and receive funding from small and large donations from individuals across the nation. In order to fund our trip, money was raised through the first Honor Run Half Marathon and Two Person Relay last November. Over 1,000 people participated in the event, allowing Alvin and the other veterans on the flight to visit our nation’s capital.

By volunteering, donating or talking to veterans in our community about the Honor Flight Network, we can make sure that our nation’s heroes receive the recognition they deserve for their sacrifice to our state and country. Although Memorial Day is over, I hope you will continue to honor our men and women in uniform, and would encourage you to reach out to local veterans or their family members so they may apply for this outstanding program.

If you are interested in applying or would like more information about Honor Flight Tri-State, please visit http://www.honorflighttristate.org/.

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Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties. She serves as Vice Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Courts and Criminal Code Committee and Select Committee on Government Reduction.