Flight to D.C. will honor World War II vets

Time is running out for World War II veterans.
That’s why a Western Slope group is raising money to send WWII veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials that honor their service. Before it’s too late.
phjeffburkhead“The youngest (WWII vet) is 80,” said Tom Kilduff, commander of Meeker VFW Post 5843 and a member of the group seeking donations to send veterans on the memorial trip. “They are dying 1,200 a day, according to the VA (Veterans Affairs) statistics. In another 10 years, they will be gone.”
That’s why Kilduff and others have a sense of urgency to make this dream a reality for as many Western Slope WWII veterans as possible.
The group, called the Western Slope Honor Flight Committee, is based out of Grand Junction. Kilduff worked to have six WWII veterans from Rio Blanco County added to the list of those who will make the trip to visit the war memorials.
“So far, right now, we have 130 signed up,” Kilduff said. “They’ve had these honor flights before, for about three years, and every time Colorado had an honor flight, it was veterans from the Eastern Slope (who were went). That’s why I and some other guys got a Western Slope group started. This is the first year we did this.”
Signed up to go from this area are: brothers Tom and Dave Allen, Frank Cooley, Bruce Mobley, Dick Moyer and Joe Sullivan. Orval LaBorde, who died Dec. 27, was on the list originally.
“I got my names in early,” Kilduff said. “I was the first one to get names in. Everyone I put names in for, got to go.”
Seating is based on availability, and is first come, first served.
“So, when I heard that, within a day I had talked to all of these people,” said Kilduff, who was in the Marines and is a Vietnam veteran. “I talked to a lot of veterans who wouldn’t go, for one reason or another, health-wise, or whatever.”
The group will make the trip sometime in June.
“We still don’t have a date they are going, but it will happen,” Kilduff said. “The exact date hasn’t been picked, because we have to reserve the plane. There are several (honor flight) planes going around the United States.”
Expenses for the veterans are paid for by donations.
“The trips are free to WWII veterans because … these veterans have given enough,” stated a news release from the Honor Flight Network.
Some of the veterans will be joined by close friends or family members who are called guardians, who have to pay their own way.
“They assist with things,” Kilduff said of the guardians. “Dick Moyer’s son Larry is going as a guardian, and Steve Allen is going as a guardian with Tom Allen, his dad. Ethel Starbuck is going as a volunteer with Joe Sullivan.”
The group will fly out of Grand Junction, and will return the next day.
“When they return, they will be given a hero’s welcome,” Kilduff said.
The Meeker VFW commander is confident the money will be raised to send the veterans on the honor flight trip.
“It all depends … on the donations,” Kilduff said. “We’re still taking money, $5, $10, $50, $100, whatever. We’re not going to have any trouble raising the money. They will go, regardless.”
For more information, or to make a donation for the Western Slope Honor Flight, contact Kilduff at 878-4426 or Kevin Wodlinger at (970) 623-8500, or mail a check to Randy Kirschbaum at Vectra Bank, 499 28 1/4 Road in Grand Junction 81501, or visit
westernslopehonorflight.com.
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Cheri Perry, co-owner of the Main Street Coffee House in Rangely, along with her husband, John, recently received an anonymous letter in the mail, along with a $100 bill.
A handwritten note inside the envelope read,” Please provide coffee to however many this will buy. God bless you and those it helps.”
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Rangely School Board members interviewed three finalists for the superintendent’s position last weekend.
“Yes, we had three candidates on site on Friday and Saturday,” said Matt Scoggins, school board president. “We are making some follow-up phone call over the next couple of days and will hope to make a final decision within the next few days.”
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Members of the Uintah Mountain Club in Vernal, Utah, were saddened last week to learn of the death of Ann Elder, wife of Tom Elder, past chairman of the group.
Mickey Allen of Rangely, a member of the club’s board of directors, forwarded me a note Tom wrote to club members: “Most of you probably already know that my sweet wife Ann died Tuesday. It happened so quickly, and no one seems to know why. On Saturday morning she was her normal self, by Saturday afternoon she had undergone a major surgery. Sunday she seemed to be rallying well, but by Monday night we were life-flighting her to the University of Utah Hospital. I don’t have any answers for you. Please keep all of Ann’s family and her many devoted friends in your thoughts and prayers. They, like me, are going to have a very, very hard time trying to live in a world without her. Trying to be more loving to the people in your life is probably the best way to honor her.”
Mickey said of Ann, “She was cute as a bug’s ear. The Mountain Club is in disarray because of Annie’s death. Tom is the heart and soul of the club. I’m sitting here in total shock and disbelief myself.”
The Uintah Mountain Club will have its monthly meeting at 7 tonight at the Golden Age Center in Vernal. There’s an Internet link to a memorial Web site for Ann Elder at www.sympathytree.com/annschafferelder1958.
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An event is planned for April 15 in Vernal as part of a national TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party Day. More than 1,800 similar events will take place across the country. The event in Vernal will run from 5 to 7 on the courthouse lawn.
For more information, visit www.teapartyday.com.
Following the tea party, an organizational meeting will be held at Western Park for a planned energy independence rally.
According to a news release, the rally is “intended to show support for the extraction industry, and moreover, to focus national attention on the impact that the current administration’s land use policies have had on our local economy.”
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Glenn Vawter, director of the National Oil Shale Association in Glenwood Springs, spoke Monday night in Meeker at a meeting of the Community Planning Task Force.
Asked about a recent report claiming there is 50 percent more oil shale in the Piceance Basin than previously thought, Vawter said, “In the overall scheme of things, I do not think the revised estimate will have much effect on the current research and development projects going on in Rio Blanco County. However, the report really does emphasize the size and importance of oil shale as a domestic supply of petroleum for the nation. The announcement may bring more attention to the public, businesses and the government about oil shale.”
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Responding to the state’s reported $210 million drop in severance taxes in oil and gas production, Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ken Parsons said, “I think it is going to have its most negative effect on the DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) grant program. We are in the second year of a three-year phase-in of the legislation changing both severance tax and federal mineral lease revenue distributions, and that adds another layer of uncertainty to all of this. We also do not know if the Legislature is going to take more from this fund. They took $9 million this year to keep the Rifle Correctional Facility open, and with there being this $700 million shortfall next year, I think the grant fund will be in real trouble.”
However, on the flip side, Parsons said, “I see direct distribution to the county and our towns increasing. Direct distribution of severance and FML dollars have been based only on employee residence reports in the past. This year, that is dropping to 50 percent residence reports, 25 percent mineral production and 25 percent exploration permits, and next year something closer to one-third in each category. … DOLA has no estimates for how all of this will change the direct distribution … but I think the direct distribution dollars to the county and our two towns will increase … from something fairly insignificant to something that might enable us to do some infrastructure projects.”
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Results of the countywide survey will be presented tonight at 7 at the county administration building in Meeker, and will be available by videoconference at the county’s western annex in Rangely.
“We had an outside consultant conduct the survey,” said Jeff Madison, planing director and natural resources specialist for Rio Blanco County. “I have not seen any of the results as of yet. They did say they got over 500 households to respond. This is the first part of the process to redo the master plan, which is slated for completion the first part of 2010. The consultants will be interviewing stakeholder groups, identified by the Technical Advisory Group.”
Members of the Technical Advisory Group, or TAG, are: County Commissioner Kai Turner; county planning commission members Oakley Hopkins and Travis Day; Meeker Trustee Regas Halandras; Meeker Planning Commission member Terry Goedert; Rangely Mayor Ann Brady; Rangely Planning Commission member Rick Brady; and community at-large members Peggy Rector and Jack Rich of Rangely, and Ann Franklin and Chris Lockwood of Meeker.
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Rangely High School senior wrestler Christian Holcomb, who finished fourth at the state tournament in the 152-pound weight class, was named to the Class 2A second team “Best of the Best,” in Sunday’s Denver Post.
Three of his teammates earned honorable mention honors: senior Ryan Cramer at 145 pounds; junior Devon Rose at 125 pounds; and junior Travis Witherell at 140 pounds.
Way to go, guys.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.