In the small office of Kindred Hospice on Tuesday morning, employees, volunteers and relatives of Kindred surrounded David Bartlett, a US Navy veteran of the Vietnam conflict, and Michael Juarez, a US Army veteran of the same conflict, for their upcoming May 9 honourary flight to Washington, DC
Bartlett is one of the patients at Kindred Hospice who meets regularly with veteran volunteer Juarez. The two share kinship and support, as both are veterans of the Vietnam War.
The Dream Foundation fulfilled Bartlett’s dream to attend the Honor Flight. Robert J. Dole Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office Center driver Gene Sexton presented gifts from the Dream Foundation for their upcoming flight.
“I think it’s going to be really great, and David will enjoy it,” Juarez said. “We’re going to take a lot of pictures.”
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The Dream Foundation helps applicants make their dreams come true. In this case, it was an Honor Flight to Washington DC for Bartlett.
“It’s an honor and I’m really excited to see the Vietnam War Memorial and bring Mike with me,” Bartlett said.
Organize the flight
The private ceremony at Kindred’s Main Street office was attended by several staff members and volunteers, Bartlett and Juarez’s wives, Judy Bartlett and Sandy Juarez, and several family members.
Fifth District VFW Commander and Chairman of the Hutchinson Kansas Honor Flight, John Hooker, met with Juarez and Bartlett to share the flight details and congratulate them on the opportunity.
“It’s the journey of a lifetime,” Hooker said. “When I went along with 32 Vietnam veterans, 14 Korean veterans, and five World War II veterans, it was super cool to pick their brains and ask them what their experiences were to compare mine.”
Hooker said the Honor Flight would first land in Baltimore, where Bartlett and Juarez would visit Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The next day, Bartlett and Juarez will visit Washington DC’s war and conflict memorials and witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The trip ends with a flight back from Baltimore to Wichita.
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Brandi Rice, Kindred Hospice’s volunteer services manager, said she and Preston Pelkey, the president of experienced volunteers at Kindred, worked to create this first opportunity for one of their experienced patients.
“This is the idea behind our veteran volunteer program, and Mike (Juarez) has taken it to a whole new level,” Rice said. “This just gives it real proof of Mike and the program.”