Westerville students are taking the time to show how much they value the service of local military veterans.
Working with Honor Flight Columbus, Westerville students and the general public are invited to write letters of gratitude to local veterans.
The Honor Flight Columbus program flies senior veterans from World War II and the Korean War to Washington, D.C., for them to see the national monuments built in their honor.
The Westerville community for several years now has sponsored its own flight of veterans.
During the trip, each veteran receives a packet of thank you letters from Westerville students, community members and even local dignitaries.
The first few flights of Honor Flight Columbus were smaller and the Westerville community raised between $13,000 and $15,000 for the flights.
“When we began flying charter flights and the cost rose significantly, the committee rose to the challenge. The sponsorship fee of $50,000 didn’t stop them,” said Bobbi Richards, a director emeritus of Honor Flight Columbus. “What generous, selfless people sit on this committee. Without the funding, the trips would not have happened; the veterans would not have flown.”
She described the committee as a cross section of the citizens of Westerville and noted how each member lays aside their personal egos to work as one.
“It is a model that other cities could, and should, follow to encourage participation of all citizens in major projects,” she said.
To date Honor Flight Columbus has honored almost 4,000 veterans through the trips and close to 200 of them have been from Westerville.
“Having students connect with the veterans is very important, on both sides. It means a lot to the veterans because they haven’t been forgotten and it is a lesson in service and sacrifice for the students,” Richards said.
The program is free of charge to the veterans and is described as a way to thank veterans for their service to the country.
This is the seventh year that the Westerville community has sponsored Honor Flights.
The World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., in May 2004 and the Korean War Memorial was dedicated in July 1995.
Honor Flight works to make sure men and women who served in those wars have a chance to view the memorials.
Lisa Reschke, a clerk at Cherrington Elementary School, is leading the collection of student letters in Westerville.
She said that Genoa Middle School usually has the highest level of participation, but it varies from year to year.
The program is even being offered to those not old enough to write; they are welcome to draw pictures.
Each year a teacher and student from each of the three high schools go on the trip as guardians for the veterans.
Superintendent John Kellogg has made the flight as a guardian as well.
For letters to reach those veterans who are traveling to Washington, D.C., in September, letters must be sent to Lisa Reschke at Cherrington, 522 Cherrington Road, Westerville, Ohio 43081, before Sept. 9.
The Westerville community also is invited to welcome home the returning veterans the evening of Sept. 19 at Port Columbus International Airport. The welcomers will gather in the southwest baggage claim area about 8:45 p.m.