LAURELVILLE — After the Stages Family honored 10 veterans with an honor flight from Columbus to Washington, D.C. in October, they followed up by honoring them again Monday at Laurelville Elementary School.
Students from Laurelville Elementary along with members of the community packed the school’s gymnasium to celebrate those who served. The students sang America the Beautiful while also performing it in sign language and then thanked each branch of the military for their service.
Prior to Monday, the elementary students wrote thank you letters to veterans including two who went on the Columbus Honor Flight in October. The students sent veterans Daniel Bosch as well as John Chancey thank you cards that they have had the chance to read several times over. The school also honored the two vets with framed gifts.
What was framed were photos taken of them during their trip to Washington, D.C.
Honor Flight Columbus flies veterans out of Columbus to D.C., where they visit several war memorials all free of charge to them. The money raised to send the 10 veterans from Hocking, Pickaway, and Ross counties came from Stages Family Inc. The trip cost about $500 per veteran.
Both Bosch and Chancey were extremely thankful for the opportunity to go on the honor flight. They were a part of the 100th honor flight out of the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Honor flights also run out of Dayton, Cincinnati and several other cities.
What Bosch and Chancey both enjoyed most about the trip was getting to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Bosch said everything done in the changing of the guard is to the count of 21.
“We had a great time that day. It brought back a lot of great memories and a lot of bad ones,” Bosch said as he began to get emotional. “It is an honor to be here with all these young ones. That is what we fought for.”
When they came back from the flight, about 220 veterans and residents welcomed them home. Stacey McNichols, president of Stages Family Inc., described the welcome home as what many of the vets, especially those who served in the Vietnam War, originally deserved.
McNichols added that when they returned home, all they did was thank everyone for welcoming them.
“Here we are to support them and when they came in, they were thanking us,” McNichols stated. “All of their smiles made all the hard work worthwhile.”
McNichols decided to start helping veterans because he grew up with vets in his family. Nine years ago, he along with several other people started the Stages Family Inc. benefit to support veterans and it has grown into what it is today.
“It started with making $1,800 the first year to last year, we made $80,000,” remarked McNichols.
Their organization raises money to help military families both currently serving and retired. McNichols’ whole goal with the group is to serve current and former military members who live locally.
There are currently 36 volunteer members in Stages Family Inc.; all of which are volunteers and 100 percent of the proceeds they raise goes to veterans.
During the ceremony, the Stages Family also donated a new flag to the school. This was just a small thank you from the group to the school and to the community for supporting the Stages Family and all local veterans.
Honor Flight Columbus started in 2004 after the World War II Memorial was dedicated by then President George W. Bush. Klye Ogilbee, lead medic with Honor Flight Columbus continued the story of how it all started.
“A doctor from the VA hospital in Dayton kept asking his patients if they were going to have the opportunity to go see [the memorial],” Ogilbee explained. “He soon realized that they did not have the opportunity, the money and didn’t have anybody that knew how to get them there.”
Ogilbee continued that soon the doctor, Earl Morse, used his own resources. As a former aviator, he got six of his friends who were also former pilots and put their planes together to fly 12 veterans from Dayton to D.C.
Ogilbee stated that to date, the group has flown over 6,500 veterans to Washington, D.C. They have flown 924 in this year alone.
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John Stran is a reporter for The Logan Daily News