Bessemer VFW holds fundraiser for Honor Flights
May 24, 2022
By ZACHARY MARANO
Bessemer — The Honor Flight Network celebrates America’s veterans by inviting those who served from 1941-1975 on all-expenses-paid trips to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at the nation’s memorials. Since each flight is funded entirely through donations, the Bessemer Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3673 hosted a fundraiser dinner on Saturday to help veterans from the Upper Peninsula travel to the capital.
Before the dinner, Louis Raykovich sang the National Anthem and Post Commander Donna Frello gave a welcome. David Manki, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and Junior ROTC instructor at Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, was invited back by the Bessemer VFW after being guest speaker at the previous fundraiser in 2019.
“We are here tonight to recognize our veterans — and in particular, our veterans who will be traveling on the Honor Flight,” Manki said. “This reminds us to focus on the sacrifices that our veterans have made in making our country the greatest democracy in the world.”
John Frello, the post quartermaster and Donna’s husband, said Saturday’s event was the Bessemer VFW’s fourth annual fundraiser dinner. The event was cancelled over the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frello said that some veterans who went on previous honor flights also attended the Saturday evening dinner. One of these people was Bob Nyman, who was a U.S. Navy diver from 1963-1968, performing underwater ship repairs on Navy vessels during the Vietnam War era. Bob went on the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight’s last mission in September 2019. He was at Saturday’s event with his wife, Pat, and daughter, Sandy.
“It brings tears to my eyes, even now. It was an awesome experience. You’re treated like a king. It’s a trip of a lifetime and everybody should enjoy it,” Nyman said of his trip to Washington.
Nyman said that he did not see combat, but the Honor Flight Network honors all who served, no matter where, during the World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. He said that for many veterans, the Honor Flight was the first time they felt appreciated for their sacrifices — especially Vietnam War veterans, who sometimes bore the brunt of the American public’s animosity towards the conflict, he said.
The Honor Flight includes airfare, meals, a deluxe tour bus with police escort and other items. As part of the trip, each veteran also has a volunteer “guardian” who assists them prior to and during the flight and during the visit to the memorials. On his honor flight, Nyman’s guardian was his daughter.
“Please, if you’re afraid to do the trip because you can’t walk for very long or you have health care issues — they have everything covered tenfold. Somebody is there for you the whole day,” Sandy Nyman said.
Bessemer VFW officials said that they raised more than $109,000 in ticket and raffle sales through the event to support the U.P. Honor Flight. The total included $2000 raied at a craft fair at the VFW in April to support the flight.
The local, Escanaba-based hub has three trips planned for this year, with the first trip leaving on Wednesday, and the other two tentatively scheduled for Sept. 14 and 28.