Labor Employee Takes Leading Role in Honoring Veterans
Barb Brueggeman, currently a Claims Specialist One at the Jefferson City Regional Claims Center, first became involved with the Honor Flight program in 2008. Driven by a desire to honor her parents, both veterans of WWII, she became the founding president of the Central Missouri Honor Flight program. Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization with the goal of honoring American veterans by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials at no cost to the veteran.
Honor Flight’s mission is time-critical because the country is quickly losing WWII veterans. Nearly two dozen of the Honor Flight veterans that Central Missouri Honor Flight has taken to the Memorial passed away after making the trip. Several others on the waiting list did not live long enough to make the journey. Once the WWII veterans have flown, the goal is to fly Korean War veterans and then Vietnam War veterans. Many Vietnam vets have acted as Guardians (escorts for the WWII veterans) on the flight, and as with all Guardians, pay their own way. Central Missouri Honor Flight has required the Guardians to be doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, younger veterans or trained, experienced Guardians.
Brueggeman was joined by 5 other volunteers: Sarah Hill & Scott Schaefer of KOMU, and Steve, Sharon and Mary Paulsell, who began the planning process in December of 2008. Their goal was to raise enough money for two trips in 2009, but they managed to fund seven trips. In 2010, three trips have already been made (in April, May and June), and three more are planned (for September, October and November). These ten trips have given more than 600 veterans the opportunity to see the Memorial built in their honor.
Being an actual flight volunteer with Honor Flight can be taxing. Days begin before 2 a.m. and often do not end until well after 1 a.m. the following day. But according to Brueggeman, that doesn’t matter to most volunteers.
“All the sleepless nights and long hours are nothing when you think of the sacrifices the veterans have made – the Honor Flight is for them and about them. I am just honored to get to spend the day with them. Going is an honor for me.”
Brueggeman is no longer the active president of the Central Missouri Honor Flight, but she will never cease honoring the memory of her parents – her father, a member of the Second Marine Amphibious Tractor Battalion, who joined because of Pearl Harbor, and her mother, who was a member of the second class of WAVES officers with the U.S. Navy. She wears her mother’s dog tag and father’s Marine Corps bracelet on every flight. Her father passed away before her birth, and her mother didn’t live long enough to see the Memorial. But that doesn’t deter her from her goals – “My motivation was to honor all our WWII veterans – The Greatest Generation – and the memory of my parents,” said Brueggeman. “In my view, the WWII veterans did so much more than protect our freedom…these are the men and women who saved the world.”
If you are interested in volunteering or sponsoring a veteran, visit http://www.centralmissourihonorflight.com/home.