WDAY Honor Flight book is a keepsake of memories, stories and photos
FARGO — Over the past 10 years, I've been asked a lot of questions about the WDAY Honor Flight — the project that sends World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., free of charge to see their war memorials. I love talking about it, so I have no problem waxing eloquent. But one question always trips me up a little bit.
"What is your favorite memory from the flights?"
I usually reply with something like, "Ah, well, ah, hmmm, there were so many ..."
Not eloquent, but the truth is, it's hard to narrow down one memory, one story or one favorite veteran. After eight flights with more than 1,000 veterans, you can imagine the wonderful people I've met and the many memories we have shared.
That's just one reason behind publishing the new Honor Flight commemorative book, "In Their Honor: WDAY Honor Flight 2007-2017." After approximately six months working on the book, it's available starting Wednesday, July 12, at the lobbies of The Forum and WDAY-TV in Fargo and at WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks. It is also available online for shipment at WDAY.com on the "WDAY Deals" tab.
For the last six months, I've been combing through the archives, digging up the stories Forum reporters have written about the flights in the last decade. I've also included a few stories and behind-the-scenes facts that have never been previously published.
Photographer David Samson — who has been on the flight as a both a photojournalist and son of a veteran — dug through thousands of photos taken by himself and other photographers who have attended the trip over the years. Most of these photos, beautiful as they are, have never been seen by the general public.
But perhaps, more important than the stories and photos from professional journalists, are the stories written by the veterans themselves. Many people might not know that prior to each Honor Flight, veterans were asked to fill out biographical information.
From that information, a brief, first-person narrative is shared from each veteran's point of view. The biographies were at first only published in small, spiral-bound notebooks and given to Honor Flight travelers so each could get a better idea of who they were sharing the experience with. More than once, we had veterans who reconnected with each other after years apart because they saw each other's names in the book.
For the past decade, these notebooks have been gathering dust in the drawers of my desk at The Forum. In the interest of preserving history, we knew they had to be saved and published for future generations.
Biography editor Jan Jorgensen — who served on the Honor Flight committee from the very beginning and wrote many of the biographies — was tasked with finding, editing and reformatting all of the biographies for this new book.
Designer Rebekah Ness had the job of taking all of this information — stories, photos and biographies — and crafting them into a gorgeous book. I believe it is just that.
We're all really proud of "In Their Honor: WDAY Honor Flight 2007-2017" and think it would make a wonderful keepsake not only for those who went on the trip, but for their families and anyone in the region who made the trips possible.
Thanks to the generosity of The Alex Stern Foundation, American Crystal Sugar, Bell Bank, Dakota Refrigeration, D-S Beverages, The Offutt Family Foundation and Sanford Health, we are going to be providing complimentary books to some organizations in the state, including middle schools. It is our hope that through this book students born many decades after the end of both World War II and the Korean War will come to know, understand and appreciate all the men and women who served.
Books will be for sale until supplies run out. Some proceeds from sales of the books will donated back to Honor Flight to make future trips possible. Thank you to all who supported our efforts, from sponsoring the trips to helping us produce the book.
Now when someone asks me to share my favorite memories from the trips, I can simply hand them a copy.
Find "In Their Honor: WDAY Honor Flight 2007-2017" at these locations:
The Forum —101 5th St. N., Fargo
WDAY-TV — 301 8th St. S., Fargo
WDAZ-TV — 2220 S. Washington St., Grand Forks
Price: $30, cash, check or credit
Available online at WDAY.com. Click on "WDAY Deals."
*Online price is $35 with shipping and handling.