DALLAS -- To help honor the legacy of veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, Alon Retail Brands raised funds to host an "honor flight" to Washington, D.C., for 143 vets to visit memorials built in tribute to their service.
Alon received the CRU Award for Community Spirit at the Convenience Retailing University conference in Dallas earlier this month, with lead organizer, John West, vice president of retail marketing for Alon, Dallas, accepting the award before about 500 attendees.
Watch the video below.
The company worked through the Honor Flight Network, Springfield, Ohio, which has operations in 140 cities and is designed to honor veterans, particularly those from World War II and Korea. West said its goal is to fly veterans, many of whom have not seen these memorials, to visit the sites and treat them as heroes. Honorees do not pay for any part of the trip.
Alon's flight took place in September, taking off from Midland-Odessa, Texas. It involved 143 veterans and their families, with others being guardians (many of them vets themselves) for the older individuals. Forty vets were in wheelchairs.
Among the locations they visited were Arlington National Cemetery, the WWII Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial (often called "The Wall") and the Marine and Navy Memorials.
West and his wife Marci first heard of the honor flights when they met an individual from Amarillo, Texas, who had flow 13 flights from various places in Texas.
For its effort, Alon staff sold 8 x 10 "pin-up" placards for a dollar or whatever donation the could solicit. Within a 30-day period, they raised $50,000 to directly cover expenses related to the trip.
While West's son, Matt, was not a focus of the trip, the group did visit Section 60 at Arlington cemetery, where many of the fallen soldiers from America's war on terror are buried. Matthew West was 36 when he died in Afghanistan in 2010, serving his country.
John West said when the women spontaneously started singing "Amazing Grace," it was overwhelming. "The camaraderie between the generations always exists," he said. "It was a special moment."
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