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Leonard "L.A." Dale, who turned 94 on Sept. 8, is looking forward to taking a Sept. 21 Ozarks Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Veterans Memorial. Dale is one of 76 veterans scheduled to visit the memorial at no charge.
Leonard "L.A." Dale, who turned 94 on Sept. 8, is looking forward to taking a Sept. 21 Ozarks Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Veterans Memorial. Dale is one of 76 veterans scheduled to visit the memorial at no charge.

After 5: Greatest Generation Salute

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The 65th anniversary of the end of World War II was Sept. 2, but a monument for veterans of that war has been in place in Washington, D.C., for only six years. That means the majority of World War II veterans likely have never seen the monument, completed in 2004.

That’s where Ozarks Honor Flight comes in.

Established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in October 2009, the mission of the organization is to transport World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to view their war memorial and other commemorative sites at no cost to the veteran, according to www.ozarkshonorflight.com. The Honor Flight takes up to 76 veterans on each trip to Washington.

The group’s next trip to the World War II Memorial is scheduled for Sept. 21, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Leonard “L.A.” Dale is enthusiastically looking forward to his flight.

Dale recalls coming home from World War II after serving 19 months in Guam and one month in Iwo Jima in the 3rd Marine Division. “We came home on a boat used to transport tanks across the ocean.
On our way home, they put 600 on a boat. We came across the Pacific on a flat-bottom boat. It took us 17 days. Coming home wasn’t a big to-do.”

Many of the young men didn’t have a lot of life experience before heading to war, says Dale, who’s 94. He is a deacon at South Haven Baptist Church and had a 34-year career in sales for Pepsi-Cola in Tulsa, Okla., before retiring to Springfield.

“It was good to get home. That was behind us,” Dale says. “We went on and had a good life.”

Ozarks Honor Flight has taken four trips and pays to charter a Sun Country Airline 737. Each flight costs $68,000 and is funded by donations, says organization board member and retired banker Bill Kristek.

To help give veterans the opportunity to visit the World War II memorial, The Gardens Independent and Assisted Living presented Ozarks Honor Flight with $5,000 on Aug. 31.

“We don’t want to rest until we get them all there,” says Jamie Dopp, KY3 community relations director who also handles media relations for Honor Flight.

Trips also are scheduled in October and November.

Kristek, who is not a veteran but volunteered as a bus captain for the group, recalls the fog that forced an hour-and-a-half delay in his May flight leaving Springfield. He says the trip was worth the wait.

“It was very rewarding to (see) the expressions of our World War II heroes. It was very moving,” says Kristek.

The Springfield organization, one of 78 in the nation, was formed using the Columbia organization as a model, Kristek says.

The national Honor Flight Network is based in Springfield, Ohio.

Ralph K. Manley – a World War II veteran, former Springfield City Council member and area home builder – went on the local organization’s first trip in November 2009, and he encourages other veterans to go.

“You couldn’t ask for anything any better,” says Manley, the 2006 Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Springfieldian and 2001 Springfield Business Journal Lifetime Achievement in Business Award winner. “It was awe-inspiring.”

In addition to The Gardens, which operates independent, and assisted living centers and condominiums at 1302 W. Sunset St., Kristek says support from the local business community has been growing.

Springfield-Branson National Airport, KY3, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper and the Pitt Foundation are among supporters of Honor Flight.

Dopp says the station viewed its involvement as an obligation.

“As I was told by one veteran who flew on our inaugural Ozarks Honor Flight, you have your big events in life – you get married, you have kids – and then as you age, very seldom do you have large events in your life,” Dopp says. “The Ozarks Honor Flight, he said, was the big event at the end of his life.”[[In-content Ad]]

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