CHEWELAH – Two Oroville veterans of WWII are among 15 who got to fly back east to see the WWII memorial in Washington, DC thanks to the efforts of a Chewelah, Wash. student who has raised money for the Inland Northwest Honor Flight program.
Justin Peterson has ties to Oroville as well, he is the son of Larry and Elizabeth Peterson, both graduates of Oroville High School. The boy belongs to an advanced program at his school called “Beyond.” Part of this program requires him to do a non-graded, independent learning project or ILP every year that requires research, a paper and a display. Last winter he decided to do his project on World War II. The same time he began his research he saw a news report on Inland Northwest Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that sends WWII Veterans to Washington D.C to see the memorial built in their honor. The new hub (Honor Flight is all over the country with sub-sections in different regions) was taking its inaugural flight.
“Justin naturally wanted to help and decided to raise money for the program. He also decided to see if there were any WWII Veterans in our community to speak with for his project. His little project became very large,” said his mother, Elizabeth. “Justin submitted an article to the local paper asking WWII Veterans to contact him if they were interested in speaking with him. The phone rang and rang and he ended up interviewing 10 local veterans, each with very interesting and inspirational stories. He compiled a board with their pictures and stories and presented it along with his WWII project this spring at the annual ILP and science fairs.”
It was at this time that he began his fundraising efforts, doing a change drive around town and at his school and speaking with nearly every organization in town asking for donations. He also contacted the news stations in Spokane and asked anyone and everyone for a donation. One of the local radio stations did a story on him and his project and it resulted in a $1200 donation. He also wrote letters to
every American Legion Post in Eastern Washington he could find an address for. With his parent’s help and that of his grandparents, Tony and Peggy Koepke of Oroville and members of the Legion Post in Chewelah, he hosted a taco and nacho feed where half of the town came and ate a feast for donations to INW Honor Flight, according to his mother. As word spread of his efforts, the money and letters started pouring in.
“Justin received letters from all over from veterans thanking him for his efforts, one veteran from Spokane sent him his wings he received when he graduated from flight school Justin has also received a Bronze citenzenship award from the Son’s of the American Revolution and a flag was presented to him by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMoriss-Rodgers that had been flown over the Capitol Bldg in Washington, D.C. He has also become a Sons of the American Legion member where he holds the Seargent at Arms post,” said his mom.
Because of his efforts, to date (donations still occasionally come in the mail) he has gathered just under $5000 in donations for INW Honor Flight. This has paid for the trips of approximately 15 veterans to see their memorial, all expenses paid. Two of the veterans he interviewed for his project were from Chewelah and two others, Hank and Loren Allen, have ties to Oroville.
The Allen brothers made their trip in September and Justin Peterson met them at the airport. These brothers along with two others, Melvin and Everett, fought in WWII, all coming home safely. “While Hank and Loren were honored to have the opportunity to see their memorial, unfortunately, Melvin and Everett did not get the chance,” said Elizabeth Peterson.
Dean Brazle, another World War II Veteran from Oroville, made his trip to the memorial through the Honor Flight program just last weekend.
It costs approximately $500 to $600 for each veteran to travel to Washington, D.C. That includes airfare, hotel and meals for the three day journey. Each veteran has a guardian that travels with them and all guardians pay for their own meals, hotel and transportation. Southwest Airlines donated 200 tickets for veteran that lowered the cost by about half for the veterans.
“Unfortunately those tickets are almost gone which means INW Honor Flight will begin spending more for each veteran, lowering the number that will be able to go, making donations even more important,” Elizabeth Peterson said.
There is one more Inland Northwest Honor Flight scheduled this fall before the snow flies with more next spring. Each flight has approximately 37 men and women veterans on board. Right now there are over 200 on the waiting list and time is running out for these heroes to see their memorial. Donations are urgently needed to ensure that they all get the opportunity to be honored – three veterans on the waiting list passed away before they could make the flight.
“Justin has been encouraged by the generosity of others to continue to fundraiser and urges others to raise money as well. After seeing his efforts on TV, a girl from Spokane had a bake sale and garage sale to raise money and a Brownie Troop from Spokane Valley held fundraisers as well” said his mom.
Those that would like to donate to the Honor Flight Program can still do so through Peterson, his contact information is: Justin Peterson, 617 N. Ridge St., Chewelah, WA. 99109 or by calling (509) 935-7878.
More on the Inland Northwest Honor Flight Program can be found at their Web site http://inwhonorflight.org.