A DuPage County fundraiser to send World War II veterans on the emotional, memorable and moving experience offered by Honor Flight Chicago entered its second year Saturday as more than 1,000 people looked to build on last year's success.
The second annual DuPage Veterans Foundation event included more of a visual spectacle this year, as a small fleet of World War II warbirds were on display during the gathering at DuPage Airport in West Chicago.
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Rain during last year's event prohibited a scheduled appearance by the warbirds, but the fundraiser still generated $55,000 -- enough to send a plane full of 90 veterans to Washington on an Honor Flight to see the memorial built in reverence to their service.
Richard Jorgensen of the DuPage Veterans Foundation said his organization exists solely to support those who have served, and its current mission is making sure as many aging World War II veterans as possible can be flown to the memorial.
"As long as there are veterans that need to be honored, we're planning on doing this event," Jorgensen said.
Organizers were excited to feature the World War II-era airplanes this year, said Krista Coltrin, a pilot and assistant marketing director for the city of West Chicago.
"We span the entire gamut of technological advances in aviation that were due to World War II," Coltrin said.
Veterans like 89-year-old former Army pilot Leo Spector of Wheaton got to chat with owners and pilots of warbirds including two models used for training during the early years of the war -- one painted in the Navy's traditional yellow and another in the Army's royal blue.
Spector, who flew P38 fighters while deployed in the Philippines during World War II, said he appreciated the chance to visit the memorial last year with his daughter.
"It was a real treat for me to see it," Spector said.
Servicemen and women from all branches of the military were honored and saluted Saturday as supporters of the DuPage Veterans Foundation contributed to the cause by bidding on silent auction items and buying picnic lunches.
Spector said he heard about the fundraising efforts after last year's event and wanted to attend Saturday to do what he can to assist fellow veterans.
"I was amazed and gratified to find out the things they were doing," he said.