WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Honor Flight is truly a community effort as people from all generations, come together to give veterans a trip they will never forget.
When it comes time to roll, Mike and Connie VanCampens welcome the opportunity.
“This is not just a trip. It is an experience,” Kansas Honor Flight volunteer Connie VanCampen said.
The VanCampens experienced five of the last 10 flights.
They say it is their way of giving back to our nation’s heroes as they were both raised by World War II heroes.
“There are a few of us who wear our father’s dog tags on the trip, because we didn’t get to take our dad on an Honor Flight,” Connie said.
They have had the opportunity to take many veterans on the trip, this year alone.
“We are just blessed to get to do it,” Kansas Honor Flight President Mike VanCampen said.
The Kansas Honor Flight program has stayed strong for years now, thanks to an all-volunteer force.
“We can’t do it without the people, that have come on board,” Connie said. “They are amazing.”
“Literally thousands of people involved in making this happen across the state of Kansas,” Mike said.
Thanks to fundraising in every form and fashion, veterans travel free.
From folks who collect aluminum cans to the tune of thousands of pounds, to ice cream carts, to smoking BBQ and showing off cars.
“It’s all ages, it’s great to have the youth involved,” Mike said.
Budding entrepreneurs launch lemonade stands, high school students line the route to welcome home heroes, and host 4-H chili feed fundraisers year after year.
“We all have our favorite stories about mail call,” Connie said.
Some write a simple letter, for veterans to open during mail call.
“They don’t ever get to meet these veterans, but they get to write a letter and it is educational opportunity for the teachers to say this is what these guys did for our country,” Mike said.
Because of what they did while in service, the VanCampens say the veterans, in the inconic t-shirts and hats, are often stopped throughout the journey.
“I think that is the most surprising thing to them, that they get recognized and thanked for what they’ve done,” Connie said.
So many call the Honor Flight a trip of a lifetime.
“The experience is safe, it’s safe for them to be emotional, it is safe for them to remember these things,” Connie said.
For many, the higlight of it all comes when they return.
“We see what it means to these guys,” VanCampen said.
From attending welcome home ceremonies, to handing out information at community events, you could even take a swing at the KHF Annual Golf Tournament, there are many ways to help bring in funds for the Kansas Honor Flight.
The VanCampens say the biggest way to help is to reach out to a veteran and make sure they know all about the flight.
To learn more about the program, click on Kansas Honor Flight.