Honor Flight fund raising campaign hits home for Cloquet familyAfter Pearl Harbor was attacked at the start of World War II, the late Daryl McKinney enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sent overseas, where he served out the war in Okinawa and China.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
After Pearl Harbor was attacked at the start of World War II, the late Daryl McKinney enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sent overseas, where he served out the war in Okinawa and China. And though he passed away before the first Honor Flight Northland was organized to transport veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., chances are the long-time Cloquet businessman would have enjoyed it.
Now, McKinney’s three sons, Mike, John and Chris of Best Oil/Little Stores, have begun a company-wide “Let’s Fill the Plane!” fund-raising drive to provide seats for Northland military veterans on an Honor Flight departing on May 15. Their goal is to collect enough money to pay for a seat for at least 30 vets at a cost of $600 each.
“What motivated us to do this,” said Mike, “is both personal – since our father served in World War II and our nephew served with the Marines in Iraq – and the fact that for most families, service to our country spans all generations. There’s the older generation who served in World War II and Korea, our generation who served in Vietnam and the younger generation who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
He added that when the company heard about this year’s upcoming Honor Flight Northland, “We only had to think about it for a few seconds. It makes so much sense to do this now, since these veterans are getting older and the cost of getting them to Washington, D.C. is getting higher.”
The flights are organized by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization created solely to honor American veterans for all their sacrifices. Priority is given to senior veterans from World War II along with older veterans who may be terminally ill.
According to Judy Greske, co-chair of Honor Flight Northland, each plane can accommodate 162 people.
“Usually about 100 vets and 60 support staff make the trip,” she said. “Over 180 vets have already applied to go in May.”
All 17 company-owned Little Stores have established their own individual goals. For example, five Cloquet area stores hope to contribute at least 14 flights. To accomplish this, different events are scheduled for the first quarter.
Presently stores are selling red, white and blue American flags ranging in cost from $1 to $10. In February, customers will also be able to purchase a Little Store Honor Flight Card, offering discounts on gas, coffee and more, with all proceeds dedicated to underwriting the cost of the trips.
Selected stores will host Honor Flight Silent Auctions in March. Three of them will feature a sight-seeing trip for two around the area in a Cirrus aircraft, and others will feature such merchandise as an iPod, an iPad, gift cards, a hockey jersey, and a barbeque set including barbeque tools, 20 pounds of chili and 40 hamburger patties. Each store will feature something different, and bidding will go through March 22.
“We normally don’t like to ask our customers to contribute to anything for that long a period of time,” said Mike, “but the opportunity to honor our World War II vets is slipping away, so we need to act quickly and seize the moment while we still can.”
He added that thus far the drive has gotten off to a good start.
“This is an exciting time for us,” he said. “The contributions have been well over $1,000 a week for the month of January, and we’re continuing to hit some pretty good marks.”
As of Jan. 28, $6,665 had already been raised, and Mike said that if the fund-raising drive is as successful as the company hopes it will be, it will help make it possible for many Northland veterans to be able to take the Honor Flight trip in May.
“This should be a very, very unique thank you,” he concluded.