This year's Honor Flight and Veterans Welcome Home Fest in Cary was more low-key than last year's.
Last year, the fundraiser was held on Sept. 11, at a highly visible motorcycle dealership, and featured a rally to welcome home veterans who had taken an Honor Flight that weekend.
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This year, there were scheduling conflicts that couldn't be worked out for the same location, and the Honor Flight -- a special trip to Washington, D.C., for World War II veterans -- was Sept. 28-30.
But the commitment to honor veterans, particularly those who served during World War II, remained strong. One volunteer from the Veterans Network Committee of Northern Illinois even ran out to a convenience store to buy a coffee for a veteran, because coffee was not on the event's menu.
Saturday's party at Lake Julian featured two bands, a 50-50 raffle, sales of military unit pins and Honor Flight memorabilia, games for children, and food and beer.
Money raised helps to pay the $1,200 to $1,300 cost, per veteran, for a weekend trip to see the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as other memorials there.
In the last three years, the Honor Flight McHenry Hub has sent 25 veterans. Helpers who accompany the veterans pay their own expenses.
The Honor Flight McHenry Hub takes longer trips, flying out on Friday and coming back on Sunday, than the Chicago Hub, which goes and returns on the same day.
"It is more enjoyable and easier because it is not so much of a rush," said Bruce Kramer of Barrington, a VNCNI board member. Many of the veterans are frail, and the one-day trip can be "kind of rough on them," he said.
The hub covers northern Illinois out to Rockford. The group flies out of Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee.
Besides Saturday's party, the committee solicits donations at booths outside of large stores, seeks corporate sponsors and needs volunteers.
"The more money we get, the more we can send," Kramer said.
To donate or volunteer, visit veteransnetworkcommittee.com. The committee meets at 7 p.m. the last Friday of the month at the Cary Country Club, 2400 Grove Lane, Cary.