High school, middle school youth raise money to send veterans to D.C.

2012-01-22T00:00:00Z 2012-04-02T12:13:49Z High school, middle school youth raise money to send veterans to D.C.By CINDY UKEN Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
January 22, 2012 12:00 am  • 

High school students from Red Lodge to Havre are hosting fundraisers, serving breakfast and using vending machine proceeds to help pay for Montana’s World War II veterans to travel to Washington, D.C.

Members of the National Honor Society at Valier High School organized a “Hat Day” and charged students $2 each for the privilege of wearing a hat during the school day.

The Honor Society, which has 12 members, also took up a free-will offering during a Veterans Day breakfast. The efforts raised $197, all of which has been turned over to the Big Sky Honor Flight.

“Our community has a lot of veterans,” said Marisa Habel, 17, a senior and president of the Honor Society. “This is a way for us to say thank you and to show them we respect everything that they did for us and that we continue to respect what they do.”

Other students, high schools and groups that have donated money include:

Red Lodge High School Key Club, $100.

Roosevelt Middle School Student Council (Red Lodge), $75.

Roosevelt Middle School Athletics (Red Lodge), $100.

Roosevelt Middle School Builders Club (Red Lodge), $75.

Havre Public Schools, $300.

Vance Thuesen, an eighth-grader and Student Council officer at Roosevelt Middle School, said he first heard about the Honor Flight at a school assembly on Veterans Day.

“We wanted to give back to veterans,” Thuesen said. “We wanted to show our appreciation for them, and this seemed to be a good way to do it.”

The Student Council is using proceeds from school dances and vending machine sales to help underwrite the trip.

Montana has the second-highest number of veterans per capita, behind Alaska. Organizers of the Big Sky Honor Flight say it will cost about $150,000 to send the first flight of veterans this spring to visit the World War II Memorial. The group has raised about $20,000, said Chris Reinhard, treasurer.

If the money isn’t raised in time for a spring flight, the group will plan for an early autumn flight, said Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ed Saunders, who is helping lead the effort.

“This effort is really all about charitable donations,” Saunders said. “North Dakota raised $1.7 million to send 11 flights. Wyoming raised about $1 million to send six flights. So we know it can be done.”

Those selected for the inaugural flight will be on a first-come, first-served basis, Saunders said. The only exceptions are veterans of any war or conflict who are terminally ill. They have priority.

To date, more than 125 veterans have applied to make the trip.

Contact Cindy Uken at cuken@billingsgazette.com or 657-1287.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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