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Community Partnership

Old National sponsors Honor Flight to nation's capital

Commitment to military leads to Honor Flight sponsorship

A WW2 Army veteran is guided through Evansville Regional Airport by his Honor Flight guardian.

When World War II veteran Irene Blessing boarded a plane in October 2014 bound for Washington D.C., she was so excited she started dancing with a flight attendant.

“I hadn’t danced in 30 years!” recalled Blessing, who was one of 70 veterans who made the trip to D.C. as part of the first Honor Flight departing from Evansville, Ind. Old National sponsored the highly emotional day-long event, in conjunction with other community partners.

The mission of the Honor Flight Network is to transport America’s veterans – each accompanied by a guardian – to our nation’s capital to visit the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice. The community response to the initial Evansville flight was beyond expectations.

Old National Trust Administrator Ron Whitler, a 26-year military veteran, was a guardian on the flight. He accompanied Evansville veteran Mark Schapker. “I was trying to keep up with him,” Whitler laughed. “He had so much he wanted to see.”

On the trip home, the veterans received a surprise “mail call” that consisted of letters and notes from friends and family. When they landed back in Evansville, they were met by thousands of cheering supporters, many of whom were waving flags and holding up signs.

Blessing said she was still while wiping away tears days later. “I still fill up. I want to cry – a cry of happiness that there were others who made the flight possible for us to go.”