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Event aims to raise $50,000 for Eastern Iowa Honor Flight

Teams to pull 137,000-pound cargo jet Saturday in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Organizers of a new, one-of-a-kind fundraiser hope to raise $50,000 on Saturday to help send veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials built in their honor.

To do so, they’re asking teams of 15-25 people to pull a lot of weight — 137,000 pounds to be precise.

Pulling for Honor takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday just west of the main entrance to The Eastern Iowa Airport, 3435 Beech Way SW in Cedar Rapids.

During the event, teams are to pull a FedEx 757 cargo jet 12 feet as fast as possible.

It’s all part of an effort to raise money for Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that works to send veterans to Washington, D.C. Marty Lenss, director of The Eastern Iowa Airport, said the goal of the event is to raise enough money to send one flight of vets to the nation’s capital next summer.

Lenss said FedEx is donating use of the jet and is partnering with the airport in hosting the fundraiser.

Teams are still needed to round out the field, Lenss said, adding 15 already are registered. Cost per team is $100. Registration can be completed by sending email to easterniowahonorflight@gmail.com.

Organizers said there is likely to be some kind of recognition for the top three teams.

The public is invited to join in the fun and cheer on the teams. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Donations also are accepted online at eihonorflight.org or by mailing a check payable to Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, P.O. Box 10704, Cedar Rapids, IA 52410.

Aside from the friendly competition, Saturday’s event also features food vendors, a climbing wall from the National Guard and a chance to meet veterans and military personal from the Corridor.

Members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 33 also plan to offer free airplane rides for youth ages 8-17 through the Young Eagles program. The goal of these flights is to inspire an interest in aviation among children and teenagers. A parent or guardian is required to accompany the child to the airport and sign a permission slip before the flight.

George Rickey, public relations coordinator for Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, said events like Pulling for Honor are critical to his organization because honor flights can cost as much as $85,000 each.

Eastern Iowa Honor Flight serves veterans from 10 counties, including Linn and Johnson counties. The organization has flown 2,062 veterans from The Eastern Iowa Airport since 2009, said Rickey. Each flight holds upward of 80 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, along with nearly 80 family members and volunteers to help see to the veterans’ needs.

Rickey said the daylong trip comes at no cost to the veterans and includes a visit to Arlington Cemetery and the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

In 2015, nearly 21,000 veterans from around the country were flown to Washington, D.C., through the honor flight program.

“Our goal is to keep flying until we run out of veterans or we run out of money, and we’ll never run out of veterans,” Rickey said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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