With an infusion of $35,440 in donations, Big Sky Honor Flight of Montana will be airborne in September with nearly 100 World War II veterans aboard.
“This puts us over the top in terms of what we needed financially, making it possible for Montana’s World War II veterans to travel to the nation’s capital,” said Bill Kennedy, vice president of the Big Sky Honor Flight Committee. “We are overwhelmed by the community's support."
Some 434 World War II veterans — and one terminally ill Vietnam veteran — have already been to Washington, D.C., as part of Big Sky Honor Flight of Montana and at least 200 are waiting to make the journey.
For some, the wait is over.
They will get that opportunity Sept. 8-9 when the sixth tour of Big Sky Honor Flight travels to the nation’s capital.
A seventh flight, though not funded, is scheduled for Oct. 13-14. An eighth flight will be needed, Kennedy said. The dates for that flight have not been announced.
The donations announced Wednesday will help underwrite the all-expense-paid trips for Big Sky Honor Flight.
The newest donors are: Holiday Circle Car Show/Hawaiian Luau, $13,000 (The money was raised by owners of Yellowstone Cellars and Winery, Hot Rod Garage, Harry's Hot Rods and the Dennis Washington Foundation); anonymous donor, $10,000; State American Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary, $7,200; Guild Mortgage, $2,500; Pike Masters, $1,240; the State American Legion, $1,000; and Clint Peck, $500.
Big Sky Honor Flight’s mission is to recognize Montana’s World War II veterans for their sacrifices by flying them to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial. Top priority is given to terminally ill veterans.
The highlight is a stop at the National World War II Memorial, which was opened in 2004 as a tribute to the 16 million Americans who served during the war.
About $155,000 is needed to get each flight off the ground.
Big Sky Honor Flight organizers pledged from the outset that they would continue the tours until every World War II veteran who wants to go and is physically able has had the opportunity and no names were left on a list. Becky Hillier, a member of the committee, said that time is quickly approaching.
"We don't want any World War II veteran left behind," Hillier said during a news conference to announce the donations. "It really is a final mission for them."
Any veteran who wants to go must have an application on file by Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day. Applications will not be accepted after that.