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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Group seeks D.C. trips for WWII vets

Police officers launch chapter, fundraising

A pair of Spokane police officers are starting a local chapter of an organization that honors World War II veterans by sponsoring trips for them to the nation’s capital.

Officer Tony Lamanna, who describes himself as “passionate if not obsessed with World War II history and veterans,” said he and partner Tim Moses have received approval for the Inland Northwest chapter of Honor Flight, a national organization based in Springfield, Ohio. He’d heard about the organization sometime after it started in 2005 and was wondering early this year how it was doing.

When he checked the organization’s Web site, he discovered the group had no chapter in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana or Alaska. It has sponsored flights for veterans in those states, including a pair of Spokane Navy veterans who made the trip to Washington, D.C., and the World War II memorial last fall.

“It was a great day,” said George Pettis, of Spokane, who went with his son on the trip. They saw the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II memorial and monuments to the Vietnam and Korean wars. “We had a hell of a time.”

The group has about 7,000 veterans from around the nation on a waiting list for honor flights. Pettis said he filled out an application about a year before his trip, although some veterans on that tour had applied more recently and were moved up because they were in poor health.

Lamanna and Moses are confident the interest exists among local World War II veterans.

Flights would be on a first-come, first-served basis as soon as they raise enough money to start. Vets won’t pay anything, but a round-trip flight to Washington, D.C., a hotel for two or three nights and meals may cost the organization about $1,000 for each honoree, Moses estimated.

They’ll be making the rounds at local veterans organizations and hoping to raise funds. That could be tough in the current economy, but “this is a cause that people really believe in,” Lamanna said.

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