Prairie View High School announced last week that it would be sponsoring an Honor Flight next summer. (Screen capture, Honor Flight Network)
LA CYGNE – Since 2005, high school students around the country have found ways of serving the nation’s veterans by being paired with them for trips to the nation’s capitol to visit war memorials. The two-day trips, called Honor Flights, give many veterans their first glimpse of monuments in Washington, D.C., honoring their sacrifices, but they also serve as a learning experience for student volunteers.
Prairie View High School students will be given that opportunity next summer to be “guardians” for veterans as the school joins the Central Heights High School hub.
Stephanie Nichols, PVHS counselor, announced the move earlier this month. If things go as planned, PVHS students will be accompanying veterans on an Honor Flight on June 5-6. Nine students and nine area veterans will have the opportunity to take the flight.
That gives the school less than six months to raise about $20,000 to pay for the round-trip airline tickets plus lodging and meals for those 21 including three chaperones. Students will be tasked with raising the money.
Wendy Kinder, an organizer of the Ralph Nickell Memorial Roping contest held annually at area arenas, was instrumental in making the connection between the Honor Flight Network and Prairie View.
Kinder, a Prairie View graduate, said she became interested in the Honor Flight as a way to honor veterans. Her father, the late Ralph Nickell, was very proud of his service in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, an aircraft carrier that earned numerous commendations for its part in the Vietnam War.
“Honoring veterans is such a great thing to do,” Kinder said, adding that the Honor Flights are a great way to honor them for their sacrifice.
The roping event raises scholarship funds for area students interested in pursuing agricultural careers. However, in addition the Nickell family sold t-shirts and gift baskets and made $2,000 that it plans to donate to Prairie View’s Honor Flight program.
She learned that Tom Horstick was coordinating the program for the Central Heights “hub,” and she contacted him about bringing the program to Prairie View. The Honor Flight Network sets up hubs around the country, but doesn’t like to have them any closer than 50 miles apart.
Horstick, a retired principal from Central Heights High School and a former assistant principal at Jayhawk-Linn High School, invited Prairie View to join Central Heights and Lyndon high school hub for the June trip, Horstick said.
Also joining the June trip will be students and veterans from Holton and Northern Heights high schools. Horstick said the hubs increased the number of veterans and guardians on the flights to fill up two buses once they arrive in Washington, D.C. Also traveling with the group will be a medical team including one or two doctors and nurses.
Nichols said she is already receiving student applications for the Honor Flight and recruited social studies teacher Tracy Honda to help. She said the program will soon be taking applications from veterans to make the flight.
For now, veterans from World War II, the Korea War and the Vietnam War will receive priority. Nichols also said that veterans around the Linn County area would receive priority, but those outside the area could apply as well.
Vietnam veteran Ron Price poses at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., with Parsons High School guardians Morgan Vaughn, left, and Jazzy Palmer. Price was accepted into the Parson program and made the flight last year. (Submitted photo)
Vietnam War veteran Ron Price of La Cygne, a retired PVHS teacher who works part-time as an official for area sporting events, was accepted for an Honor Flight in September 2021 through the Parsons (Kan.) High School hub. Here is a link to that story.
A U.S. Army veteran, Price, who had never been to Washington, D.C., was escorted by Parsons High School guardian Jazzy Palmer. There they visited several memorials, but the most moving for Price was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall with the list of more than 58,000 men and women who died in the war.
He said that from the standing ovation the veterans received at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to the visit to the memorials, it was an trip that he’ll always remember.
Kinder also talked about the reception that Honor Flight veterans received as the arrived at the Washington airport.
“The whole airport stood and applauded them,” she said. “It’s a good way to use our funds. It’s a full-circle thing to me.”