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Marshall Madill/Contributing Photographer
Twenty-five World War II veterans from Kansas and Missouri took part in an Honor Flight to the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., with the help of volunteers and guardians from Grace Community Church, in Overbrook.

Jeremy Gaston | Editor

OVERBROOK—Months of planning commenced Friday as members of Grace Community Church (GCC), Overbrook, hosted their second Honor Flight, taking 25 area veterans to visit the National World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

“It was a very emotional trip,” said Marshall Madill, Overbrook, on of the several volunteers assisting with the trip.

The flight including veterans from Lawrence, Topeka, Tonganoxie, Wichita, Leawood, Ottawa and Missouri. Several vets chosen from waiting lists on the Honor Flight Network along with a few were relatives of members of the church, including Madill’s uncle, Wayne Madill, Wichita.

“The veterans were just continually excited and overwhelmed,” Madill said. “The expressions on their face and whole attitude of the flight were great all the way back to the church on Saturday.”

The group left GCC around 3 a.m. Friday morning. They arrived in D.C. just before 10 a.m., and spent the rest of the day visiting sites around the city, including the WWII, Vietnam and Iwo Jima memorials. They spent the night in the city before flying back in the morning. It was the first overnight Honor Flight by an area organization.

“It’s so tough on the vets to do it all in one day,” said trip organizer Brian Spencer. “I wanted to take a trip, see how it went spending the night, what logistical problems we have. See if we could do it as a school group again in the future.”

Spencer, superintendent at USD 420, has made several Honor Flights with Lyndon High School, in addition to helping start programs at Southern Coffey County, Concordia and Jackson Heights. It was the church’s second flight, and Spencer’s 12th.

“The flight schedules don’t allow as much stuff as you’d like to do in one day, Spencer said. “That’s what allowed us to go to Arlington National Cemetery. That was a highlight of the trip.”

While at the cemetery, Spencer and other guardians on the trip slipped away to find the burial site of Rufus Poole, husband of veteran Edna Pool, 93, Lawrence, who was on the trip. They first found the grave of a civil war veteran buried in 1960, but later made their way to the columbarium where Rufus Poole’s remains were kept.

“We rented a taxi for her and her son,” Spencer said. “I was able to accompany them to the columbarium in Arlington.”

It was the first time Edna had been to see the site of her husband’s remains since his death in 1985.

“I was deeply pleased to be able to visit the actual site,” Poole said. “It had been a lot of years.

“Spencer made special efforts to get us there,” Poole said. “I can’t say enough for that man. He just made sure we hade a smooth, happy trip.”

Edna served from 1942-47, first in the Aleutian Islands and later ending the war in a field hospital attached to General George Patton’s army. Rufus Poole served in the Navy for 10 years, but the two met in their hometown of Colby, where they lived until his death. She moved to Lawrence shortly after to be with family.

Edna had contacted a previous Honor Flight in Holton, but was referred to GCC Pastor Rodney Caldwell. Caldwell was in charge of organizing veterans for the trip, but was also able to accompany his grandfather, a WWII veteran from Tonganoxie.

“That was a special time for me,” Caldwell said. “He was so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to expect. It was neat to see him get on there.”

The trip was also Caldwell’s first Honor Flight experience.

“It was pretty special,” Caldwell said. “To see the look on their faces and the appreciation. They just kept saying thanks on the way home.”

• For more information, or to donate, volunteer or participate in the Honor Flight Network, visit www.honorflight.org.