Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

WWII and Korean Veterans Honor Flight 2018


May 24, 2018

Tonia Copeland/Western Nebraska Observer

Mary Lynch Elementary students line the flag-decorated streets as the Honor Flight 2018 veterans pass through Kimball last week. Veterans were escorted by local, county and state law enforcement as well as their trusted Patriot Guard Riders.

Honor Flight veterans were pleased with Kimball's reception and patriotism as their convoy made its way through the streets and past hundreds of citizens offering their respect and gratitude.

Dozens of WWII and Korean veterans traveled through Kimball last Thursday, May 17, on their way to DIA as part of the Nebraska & Colorado WWII and Korean War Honor Flight Convoy.

Two veterans who served in WWII joined nine Korean War veterans for the trip, which originated in Chadron. Once the veterans arrived at DIA they flew out to Washington D.C. with a stop in Baltimore, according to coordinators Larry and Karol Hix, who lead the Honor Flight as a way to honor Karol's late father, a veteran as well.

The honored veterans will tour their respective memorials in the nation's capitol, according to Hix, and will arrive back in the Panhandle by Sunday. This particular group is one of the last World War II and Korean flights. The regional Honor Flight chapter will begin offering Viet Nam Veteran flights next.

One WWII veteran, Joe Blanco, Sr., accompanied by his son, Virgil Smyres, made the trip through Kimball on this, his first, trip to view the National World War II Memorial. Blanco, a retired Army military policeman, served in the European theater, landing in Normandy in 1944 during an invasion. This past Thursday he graciously stood next to his son and offered his story and a handshake or a hug to those who spoke with him.

Escorted into Kimball by Kimball Police Department, Kimball County Sheriff's Office and Nebraska State Patrol, the veterans were escorted the entire way by the Patriot Guard Riders as well – 18 rumbling motorcycles in total. These guardians faithfully ensure security, dignity and respect as they pass through town.

Hundreds lined Highway 71 waving flags, clapping and greeting the veterans as they passed through Kimball. Mary Lynch students lined up on sidewalks waving hands and flags as the riders and veterans drove past.

"It is an honor to ride for Memorial Missions," PGR ride captain Mike Blue said. "It is also truly wonderful to see the grade school kids out here, this is the perfect age to begin teaching them patriotism."

Tonia Copeland/Western Nebraska Observer

Blue, joined by fellow ride captain Dave Sanders, added that in four and five rides each, Kimball's most recent convoy is the first they have seen to have elementary students present greeting veterans as they pass through.

Following the celebrated convoy through Kimball, veterans arrived at ShopKo, south of Kimball, for a short break and were greeted by many who simply offered messages of support, respect and gratitude.

As for the Honor Flight, Karol Hix said, "This is one of the only Honor Flights that covers all costs for both the veterans and the guardians."


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