First veterans ‘Honor Flight’ from Little Rock set for Saturday

LITTLE ROCK — Nearly 170 World War II veterans as old as 94 will visit memorials dedicated in their honor during a trip to Washington, D.C., on Saturday as part of the first official Honor Flight from Little Rock.

Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization that started seven years ago in Ohio, with six small planes taking a dozen World War II veterans to see their memorial. Five Honor Flights have originated from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport since 2009, sponsored primarily by Tyson Foods and the Walmart Foundation.

Those two companies have teamed up with the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to charter two commercial jets to fly 168 veterans free of charge from Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock to the nation’s capital and back. The group will visit the World War II Memorial and other military memorials during the day.

“We are truly honored to be partnering with Tyson Foods and Walmart to provide this experience for our state’s World War II veterans,” Duane Highley, president and chief executive officer for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, said in a release. “The sacrifices they made as young men and women ensured the freedoms we have today. We are proud to play a part in helping them see firsthand the national memorial dedicated to their service.”

Flight organizers have set up a special return reception for the veterans at the Little Rock airport at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, featuring the Arkansas Army National Guard color guard and the Army Quartet Band.

Adjutant General William D. Wofford will meet the flights in Washington and travel with the veterans on the tour.