By Barry Dalton
MEXICO, MO – Kristyn Stanberry, chairman of the Central Missouri Honor Flight Tractor Pull, told the Vandalia Leader that the annual charity event for veterans could return to Audrain County next year. City of Mexico staff had indicated earlier this year that it likely would not.
“We will be weighing all our options at the beginning of next year,” Stanberry said. “But yes, it’s a possibility.”
The event moved to the Mexico 4H in Audrain County this year due to stricter COVID-19 rules in Boone County. Although the amount raised during the Aug. 17 event for Central Missouri Honor Flight (CMHF) was lower than last year, the number of participants in the tractor pull was up. The pull raised $27,000 this year compared to $47,000 last year.
“This whole pull, and money raised, was done in 30 days this year,” Stanberry said. “So yes our fundraising fell a little short, but we are still proud of the fact we were still able to have it given all the hurdles due to COVID. However, the number of competitors that came to the pull will be one of the largest turnouts in the Midwest this summer.”
The Honor Flight Network consists of 130 independent hubs in 45 states. There are five hubs in Missouri in Columbia, Springfield, St. Louis and two in Kansas City. Between 2005 and 2018, the national network sent 222,133 vets and some qualifying guardians to Washington, D.C. for its program.
In 2018, there were 2,702 World War II vets, 7,456 Korean War vets and 10,272 Vietnam War vets who participated. Numbers for 2019 have not been released yet.
An Honor Flight Network video noted that its mission, “One More Tour, With Honor,” is a race against time as it hopes to serve as many veteran’s as possible from the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam.
“In the future, we hope to expand our service to include veterans from more recent conflicts including Desert Storm, the Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan,” states the website at HonorFlight.org.
All 2020 Honor Flights were postponed, but the Honor Flight of the Ozarks hub in Springfield has stated on its website that the next flights are scheduled for May 11, Aug. 24 and Oct. 26, 2021. (CMHF did not respond to inquiries.)
Christopher Stark, board president of the Springfield hub, noted that over $450,000 a year must be raised by its chapter for aircraft, buses, police escorts, hats, T-shirts, ponchos, backpacks, food and fundraising. He also stated that 97 cents of every dollar donated goes “directly to vets.”
“[The] trip gives veterans the opportunity to share this momentous occasion with other comrades, to remember friends and comrades lost, and share their stories and experiences with other veterans.”
The Central Missouri Honor Flight Tractor Pull raised $27,000 for Central Missouri Honor Flight in 2020 bringing the total donated to $142,000 in four years.