A few raindrops weren't enough to keep one group of golfers off the course Monday morning, not because of their love of the game but because of their love for our veterans.
Golfers began arriving at Willowbend Golf Club in Wichita as early as 7 a.m. Monday for the Second Annual Kansas Honor Flight Golf Tournament. The charity event raises money to help send more veterans on honor flights to Washington D.C. each year. In 2013, the first year for the tournament, the event sold out and raised enough money to send about 50 more veterans on flights. This year the turnout was even higher, raising enough to pay for about 75 veterans to make the flight, as always, free of charge.
"My dad was a WWII vet, I went to Vietnam twice and my son is in the service and I've had a lot of students enter the service so when you do something like this you honor them," said Mickey Pond, both a player in Monday's tournament and a Vietnam veteran himself. "America honors their veterans and what more can you ask for?"
George Grenyo, 88, came up with the idea for the golf tournament fundraiser after going on a honor flight himself in 2011. With about 555 veterans in the United States every single year, Grenyo said he had no time to waste when it came to helping other veterans have the same honor flight experience he had.
"Time is of the essence," said Grenyo. "Because these guys are leaving us real quick, so I said I'm a golfer, have been for many years so I said let's do a golf tournament."
As our living veterans continue to age, Kansas Honor Flight is focused on making sure any remaining World War II veterans have the chance to go on an honor flight. However, some of the group's focus has shifted to serving veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars as well, making sure they're not overlooked.
"The Korean War veterans and Vietnam veterans didn't really have a homecoming after their conflicts so we want those veterans to experience the kind of homecoming the WWII guys got at the end of WWII," said John Combs, chairman of the golf committee. "For some, it's going to be a healing time when they get back to D.C. and see the monuments and realize the significance that they played in American history."
The next Kansas Honor Flight leaves from Wichita on Wednesday, June 11. That group will carry 26 Korean War veterans and two World War II veterans on the flight for a tour of memorials and monuments in our nation's capital.