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Veterans Honor Flight local chapter starts in North Dakota

February 24, 2020 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A nonprofit group that arranges trips for veterans to visit Washington memorials dedicated to them will now have its first honor flight chapter dedicated to area veterans in western North Dakota.

The local chapter, Western North Dakota Honor Flight, announced its start a week ago with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in attendance, the Bismarck Tribune reported. The local chapter is the first since the Rough Rider Honor Flight Network ceased in 2011 after operating for two years.

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Kathleen Bien, head of Western North Dakota Honor Flight, recalls a moment in 2018 when local veterans who visited Washington, D.C., returned to the Bismarck airport and were greeted by a cheering crowd.

“The airport was filled, and the patriotism and the honor and respect they gave to veterans was just awesome,” Bien said. “That is when I knew I had to do something to continue this.”

The group hopes to raise $160,000 through sponsorships, fundraisers, and donations to send about 100 area veterans to the nation’s capital on a private plane. The two-day trip planned for this fall will be free to the veterans, but they do have to apply to participate in the program.

Bien said the group is prioritizing World War II veterans because of their age.

The projected itinerary includes visits to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Marine Corps Memorial — commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial— and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Honor Flight Network was founded by physician and retired Air Force Capt. Earl Morse in 2004, according to the local chapter’s website. He came up with the idea to fly veterans to Washington when he realized many were unable to visit the National World War II Memorial that was completed that year.