Brynn Anderson / The World-Herald

2013 Midlanders of the Year

To vets and families, Bill and Evonne Williams stand tall

The couple shares a passion for honoring veterans and their service.

By David Hendee / World-Herald staff writer

They grieve, they mourn, they celebrate. They remember.

In Nebraska, a mother sat with the display every day at the courthouse. It made her feel better to be near the tribute to her son.

In Texas, a child carefully scrawled "I miss you, Daddy" on a piece of paper and attached it to his soldier father's picture.

In Georgia, a widow provided a snapshot of her young daughter embracing a white-marble military headstone. "I'm hugging my daddy," she said.

A decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has left more than 405,000 American servicemen and servicewomen wounded, disabled or dead. Two generations ago, more than 16 million Americans served in the military during World War II. A few years later, 300,000 Americans fought the first battles of the Cold War in Korea.

Evonne and Bill Williams of Omaha don't want that sacrifice to be unappreciated or forgotten.

Their Patriotic Productions initiative to put faces with the names of the U.S. military dead from Afghanistan and Iraq — via touring displays called Remembering Our Fallen — is in 11 states. Next in line is Florida. The Williamses hope to create exhibits for all 50 states.

The Honor Flights they have organized with $1.6 million in donations have taken 1,635 World War II and Korean War veterans from Nebraska and western Iowa to the monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. They plan to fly 450 more Korea veterans from Nebraska to the nation's capital in the spring.

For their selfless dedication to honoring and remembering Americans who have served their nation in the armed forces, Evonne and Bill Williams are recognized today as The World-Herald's 2013 Midlanders of the Year.

They are the second husband and wife recipients since the recognition started in 1965. Tom and Nancy Osborne were the first, in 1997.

The Williamses prefer to work behind the scenes in organizing events and exhibits honoring U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen but have grown more comfortable as the public faces of the initiatives.

Bill isn't a military veteran. Neither is Evonne. He graduated from college in 1973, the year the U.S. ended direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. She graduated from high school in 1975, the year South Vietnam fell to communist North Vietnam.

During the couple's WWII Honor Flight campaign, Bill initially declined requests to talk at Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.

"I'd tell these guys, 'I'm not a veteran. I got kicked out of Cub Scouts,'" he said. "They'd say it didn't matter."

They wanted to hear about the Honor Flights.

"I didn't serve," Bill said. "We didn't serve. But we try to do what we can to help those who served in World War II and Korea — and to honor the fallen."

* * *

'They don't' want their loved one to be forgotten.'

The Williamses stand tall to several generations of veterans and their families.

Ray Wadley of Holts Summit, Mo., who coordinates support for Missouri families who have lost loved ones in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, has seen Remembering Our Fallen exhibits help heal raw grief.

"Sometimes families don't want to talk about their son or daughter because it still hurts so bad," he said. "What Bill and Evonne have done is so significant because it helps knock down those barriers and walls to keeping memories alive and helping families rebuild their lives."

A few months ago in Columbia, Mo., Wadley stood with a couple at a panel featuring pictures and biographical information about their son, a soldier who had been killed.

"To see the heartache — yet pride — in their eyes as they stand there remembering their son is truly emotional," he said. "They can tell other people, 'That was my son. He was a great kid.'"

The latest state exhibit unveiled was Georgia's display at the National Infantry Museum near Fort Benning. Like those of other states, the display carries pictures and brief biographical information about Georgians killed in the war zones. Families of the fallen arrived early for a private viewing before doors were opened to the public.

The Williamses mingled with the families, asking them to tell them about their son or daughter.

"It's an exhausting day," Evonne said.

But the families are appreciative.

"Everybody feels the same way. They don't want their loved one to be forgotten," Bill said. "That's why we keep doing it. It means so much to them."

Meet the Williamses

Bill Williams

Home: Omaha

Age: 62

Birthplace: Ames, Iowa

Hometown: Red Oak, Iowa

High school: Red Oak High School, 1969

College: Dakota State College, Madison, S.D., bachelor of science degree in education, 1973.

Career: Social studies teacher and coach at Byron (Neb.) High School and Chester-Hubbell (Neb.) High School; director of student services at Nebraska College of Business in Omaha; salesman for Cox Cable; Yellow Pages consultant; school bond issue consultant for Facilities Cost Management Group; co-founder of Patriotic Productions.

Evonne Williams

Home: Omaha

Age: 56

Birthplace: Deshler, Neb. (born Evonne Freitag)

Hometown: Grew up on a farm northwest of Byron, Neb., in Thayer County

High school: Byron High School, 1975

College: Lincoln School of Commerce, 1977; Bellevue University, bachelor of science degree in nonprofit management, 2003.

Career: Worked for insurance agencies for 16 years; executive director of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Nebraska for 16 years; deputy director and later interim director at Strategic Air & Space Museum for about three years; co-founder of Patriotic Productions.

The Williamses

Married: Nov. 21, 1980, in Omaha.


  • Army 1st Lt. Ben Williams, 29, deployed to Iraq with Army Reserve in 2005 and 2008; now attorney with Judge Advocate General's Corps at Fort Riley, Kan.; wife, Michelle; daughter, Reagan, 19 months.
  • Marine 1st Lt. Tom Williams, 27, currently deployed in Afghanistan.
  • Army 1st Lt. Sam Williams, 24, air defense artillery officer in Okinawa.
  • Former Marine Corps Sgt. Max Williams, 24, recently air traffic controller in Japan; headed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan as private contractor air traffic controller.

Korean War veterans honor flight

Photo gallery, Oct. 28, 2013

* * *

Helping is a way of life

The couple have a natural appreciation for the military and the families who raise and send children into harm's way. Their four sons serve or have served.

The Williamses grew up in rural communities where volunteering and helping neighbors was a way of life. Bill, a native of Ames, Iowa, grew up in Red Oak, Iowa, where his father was an elementary and junior high principal. His mother was a homemaker. Evonne, a native of Deshler, Neb., grew up on a farm northwest of Byron, Neb., in Thayer County.

They met when Bill was a teacher at Evonne's high school. She graduated and went to business school. He continued teaching for several years before moving to Omaha. They married in 1980 and started a family.

During it all, they flew the Stars and Stripes from the porch of their house and never missed Ralston's Fourth of July parade.

The family spent many hours around the kitchen table talking about work and education. Bill and Evonne encouraged their sons to find careers to support themselves. Instead of pushing their sons into organized activities, they pushed them out the door to play. By the time they were teenagers, the boys resembled a small militia, walking down the street in camouflage garb with paint-ball guns to play in woods along a nearby creek.

All four Williams sons serve or have served in the military.

* * *

Desperate for a solution

The couple's patriotism and career paths started to merge in 2008, when they launched Heartland Honor Flights and Evonne left her job as executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Nebraska. She was weary of fundraising and emotionally exhausted.

"You couldn't cry anymore," she said.

Evonne joined the Strategic Air & Space Museum near Ashland, Neb., as deputy director. Soon she was interim director, with marching orders to stop the hemorrhaging of red ink.

Evonne focused on cleaning up the museum's operations. She canceled contracts. She cut staff.

"The museum needed money," she said.

Bill, as an unofficial adviser, brainstormed. He decided the museum should host the aging Easy Company soldiers whose World War II exploits were chronicled in the "Band of Brothers" book and HBO miniseries.

Bill arranged for six of the surviving soldiers to gather at the museum for a reunion dinner in 2009. He needed to fly four of the vets from Washington, Oregon and Colorado. No Omaha-area corporation with a jet would help.

"I'm thinking, 'This is going to fall apart if we don't find a way to get these guys in,'" he said.

Desperate for a solution, Bill called actor Tom Hanks' production company and bluffed his way into talking with Hanks' assistant.

"It was a Hail Mary," Bill said.

Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced HBO's "Band of Brothers." Bill explained his predicament to Hanks' assistant. She called back, saying Hanks would buy first-class airline tickets for the vets.

"I said, 'That's not good enough,'" Bill said.

Two of the men would have to change planes in Salt Lake City, and the journey would be too taxing, he explained. Hanks eventually agreed to charter a jet from a Seattle seafood company.

The event attracted 1,500 people who paid $100 each to meet and eat dinner with the soldiers. The profit kept the museum open, Evonne said.

It was the first of a series of wartime memory lane gatherings that elevated the museum's profile, raised money and honored veterans. The Band of Brothers event was followed by gatherings featuring more veterans. They hosted Iwo Jima flag-raising Marines, Marines featured in HBO's "The Pacific," a Bataan Death March veteran, Korean War veterans and five Medal of Honor recipients.

Not long before Evonne joined the museum administration, Bill read a magazine story about a WWII Honor Flight in Ohio. He kept the magazine atop a replica antique radio on the kitchen counter.

"He would pick that thing up and he'd shake the magazine over the kitchen table and say, 'I can't believe no one is doing anything about this in Nebraska,' " Evonne said. "A month would go by, and he'd do it again."

She eventually told Bill to quit talking about it and do something. He did.

Bill envisioned finding a corporate jet or two to take about six World War II veterans to the nation's capital. He called around to big companies, with no success.

He was satisfied to have tried and was ready to give up when Cara Whitney — wife of Dan Whitney, the comedian better known as Larry the Cable Guy — called. She asked what it would cost to send the first planeload of veterans. Bill said $70,000 just for the plane. She said, "Done."

Publicity and contributions took off. The Williamses raised $1.2 million. The Peter Kiewit Foundation in Omaha led the way with a donation of more than $350,000, but contributions large and small came from across Nebraska.

Reuben Schleifer, 91, of Chester, Neb., a former Army staff sergeant, went on the first Honor Flight out of Nebraska.

"To visit the WWII memorial with so many fellow soldiers makes you feel kind of insignificant," he said. "But it makes you proud that our country recognizes the millions of Americans who were in the armed forces during the war."

Bill said the Honor Flights have been a joy.

"Nobody complains," he said. "If we did this for baby boomers, we'd be screaming about the mustard on the sandwich, but nobody complains."

During one of the WWII flights, the veterans' buses were delayed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. Bill boarded the bus to apologize.

"This guy sitting in the front row says 'Don't worry about it,'" Bill said. "He said 'I sit here or I sit in a nursing home. I'd rather sit here. This is great.'"

When the last flight returned to Omaha in April 2009, the Williamses had provided trips for 1,500 veterans from 250 communities across Nebraska.

World War II honor flight - April 2009

Photo gallery

Past winners - Midlander of the Year

  • 2012: Tom Osborne
  • 2011: Missouri River Flood Fighters
  • 2010: Harvey Perlman
  • 2009: Daniel Neary
  • 2008: Don Smithey
  • 2007: Connie Spellman
  • 2006: Maj. Gen. Roger Lempke
  • 2005: U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel
  • 2004: Dr. Harold Maurer
  • 2003: Gary E. Moulton
  • 2002: Charles W. "Chuck" Durham
  • 2001: Military personnel
  • 2000: Walter Scott Jr.
  • 1999: Volunteers
  • 1998: Nebraska Gov. Ben Nelson and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad
  • 1997: Tom and Nancy Osborne
  • 1996: U.S. Sen. J.J. Exon
  • 1995: Lied Foundation and its trustee, Christina Hixson
  • 1994: Jack Diesing Sr. and Jack Diesing Jr.
  • 1993: Teachers
  • 1992: Foster care families
  • 1991: Dr. Lee Simmons
  • 1990: Men and women in Operation Desert Shield
  • 1989: Harold W. Andersen
  • 1988: U.S. Sen.-elect Bob Kerrey
  • 1987: Northwestern Bell President Jan Stoney
  • 1986: Kay Orr and Helen Boosalis
  • 1985: State Sen. Jerome Warner
  • 1984: Families of the Land
  • 1983: Nebraska football players Irving Fryar, Turner Gill, Mike Rozier and Mark Schellen
  • 1982: UNL Chancellor Martin Massengale
  • 1981: Eugene T. Mahoney
  • 1980: Builder Peter Kiewit and Creighton President Carl M. Reinert
  • 1979: Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne
  • 1978: Nebraska Sen. J.J. Exon and Iowa Gov. Robert Ray
  • 1977: Year of the Educator: Omaha Superintendent of Schools Owen Knutzen, classroom teacher Sammye Jackson, Creighton President Joseph Labaj and UNO Chancellor Ronald Roskens
  • 1976: University of Nebraska President D.B. Varner
  • 1975: Year of All the People: survivors of drought, blizzards and the Omaha tornado
  • 1974: Nebraska Gov. J.J. Exon
  • 1973: Educator Anne Campbell and Omaha Councilwoman Betty Abbott
  • 1972: Omaha Mayor Eugene Leahy
  • 1971: Environmentalists James Malkowski and Deanie Anderson
  • 1970: Nebraska football coach Bob Devaney
  • 1969: Youth of the Midlands
  • 1968: Clifford Hardin, NU chancellor and U.S. secretary of agriculture-designate
  • 1967: Nebraska Gov. Norbert Tiemann
  • 1966: Midlands farmers
  • 1965: Omaha Mayor A.V. Sorensen

* * *

Exhibit comes together

When the United States pulled combat troops out of Iraq in August 2010, The World-Herald published pictures of the 73 men and women with Nebraska and western Iowa ties who died during the conflict.

Bill pulled the pages out of the newspaper and dropped them on the couple's living room coffee table.

"We should hang onto this because we might need it sometime," he told Evonne.

Three weeks later, Bill opened The Sunday World-Herald and read a story about Lonnie Ford, a Pender, Neb., man concerned that his son Josh — a 20-year-old soldier killed in Iraq in 2006 — would be forgotten.

Evonne read the story as they made their 30-minute drive downtown to worship at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church.

"I'm crying all the way down Dodge," she said.

The Williamses didn't get much out of the church service. Sitting in the balcony, they wrote notes in the margins of the service bulletin to each other. It was the genesis of the Remembering Our Fallen exhibits.

The Williamses sought help from The World-Herald in securing photographs and contacting the families of fallen troops. A few days later, a pair of graphic designers from Omaha walked into Evonne's museum office and asked if she had any projects they could tackle. She showed them her sketch of the exhibit idea. Ten days later, the designers presented the Williamses with the trade-show display concept in use today.

"When things line up, we call them "God winks,'" Evonne said. "Those were days of God winks." Patriotic Productions started after Bellevue University officials encouraged the Williamses to expand a display of Nebraska-western Iowa war dead to other states. The university signed on as a sponsor and has provided $200,000 to $300,000 annually to allow the couple to conduct research and create displays.

The Williamses quit their jobs to focus on creating Remembering Our Fallen exhibits for the nation.

Mary Hawkins, university president, said the exhibits are a natural fit with the school because of its long tradition of serving military personnel at nearby Offutt Air Force Base.

Hawkins attends some exhibit unveilings. She said the ceremonies are spiritual.

"The passion, love and support of the families of the fallen by friends, service colleagues and commanders is deep and moving," she said.

Evonne asks families to submit a favorite personal photo of their loved one to display next to the service member's military portrait. The heart-tugging result, for example, is a formal picture of an unsmiling Marine coupled with a snapshot of him as a 10-year-old with his 4-H calf.

All state exhibits now have memorabilia, snapshots of weddings, newborns and notes from friends and parents attached to individual panels.

"The emotion is just brutal," Bill said. "You can hardly read them."

Children wrap homemade flowers on pipe cleaner stems to the framework.

Nebraska's display has been on the road so long that it's laden with hats, sports jerseys and other clothing.

Scott Nisely's panel has track jerseys left by teammates at Syracuse (Neb.) High School and Doane College. Nisely, a 48-year-old Iowa Army National Guard sergeant, was killed in Iraq in 2006.

"If people went to the effort to put these things there, they stay on, whenever possible," Bill said.

Exhibit unveilings now include a table supplied with paper, pens, markers and crafts for people to create messages to attach to panels.

The indoor exhibits travel from community to community.

"We wanted it to go all over the state, but especially where these guys grew up, to help comfort the families and to remind others of the cost of our freedom," Evonne said. "The war is still going on. These families are mourning their loved ones while most of us are going about our daily lives without a thought about it or a care in the world."

Evonne said her Make-A-Wish experience taught her how to be more comfortable around families who have lost a loved one. She learned quickly that it only causes more pain to pretend someone didn't die or that he didn't exist.

Many Gold Star parents — those who have lost a child in war — say if people don't acknowledge their sons and daughters, they'll assume no one cares and the pain will be greater. They appreciate people asking about their child. How long it's been since their death. How old they would be. Telling a funny story about their child.

It doesn't have to be hard to talk with a parent about their deceased service member, Evonne said.

"It brings a lot of comfort, smiles and tears," she said.

In Kansas, Debbie Austin of Springhill often watches bystanders' eyes fill with tears as she sets up the state display. She asks them if they know someone on the display. No, they usually say, but the faces and pictures remind them of a family member.

One of the panels features Austin's 19-year-old son, Army Pfc. Shane Austin. He was killed six weeks after arriving in Iraq in 2006. An enemy grenade bounced into his tank. It exploded as Austin tried to toss it out, but he saved three others, his mother said.

"It's personal to me because of Shane, but it's about honoring all of them," Austin said. "We hear a lot about our heroes, but often it's just a name. This exhibit puts a face to a name and reminds us that there's a family out there grieving. It brings a realness to it, but the faces also bring back memories to anyone who sees it."

Austin packs the state exhibit into the trunk and across the folded-down back seat of her Nissan Sentra to deliver and set up the display across Kansas in shopping malls, schools and veterans clubs.

"It's a great honor," she said. Not until Amber Blanton of Harrisburg, Pa., visited the Georgia exhibit did she find someone who shared her decision to both mourn and celebrate a fallen loved one. Her husband, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffery Blanton, was killed in Iraq in 2004. She was deployed with the Army in Afghanistan at the time.

"Mourning has no time line," she said, "but in order to move on, you have to celebrate the person and the happiness they brought you. To meet others who choose to mourn that positive way was very refreshing to me."

Reagan Gibbs of Rincon, Ga., said her husband's panel in the Georgia exhibit reminds her that she isn't alone. The panel includes pictures of the two buddies killed by a car bomb in Iraq with Army Sgt. Mathew Gibbs in 2005.

"You want them to be remembered, honored and not forgotten," Gibbs said. "It's sad because you miss them, but you realize it's not just you. All these men and women have families with empty chairs at their tables and holes in their hearts. It's bittersweet."

Jimmy Whitlock of Newnan, Ga., said the Georgia display helps keep his son's memory alive. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Whitlock died in a 2012 aircraft crash in Djibouti while returning from a special operations mission in Afghanistan. He was 29. "It's been nearly two years, and it's still horrible," Whitlock said of his grief. "I want the world to know about him. The cost of freedom is high. People take it for granted. I took it for granted. All I've got now are memories."

* * *

Plans for another trip

During the past three years, the Williamses thought they were finished with Honor Flights. Then Bill went to a gathering of Korean War veterans to share information about a salute to veterans at a home-run derby and fireworks show last summer at TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.

As Bill chatted with about 25 veterans, he asked how many had visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. About two vets raised their hands. How many want to go, he asked. All hands went up. One vet spoke up. He noted the Williamses raised money for WWII Honor Flights, which was great, but when do Korean War vets get a chance?

"What do I say to that?" Bill said.

The Williamses decided to try.

Fundraising was slow and tough, but 135 Korea combat veterans from Nebraska made a one-day trip to Washington in October. Plans are underway for three airliners to take 450 Nebraska Korean War veterans to Washington in late March.

Planning for expansion

The Williamses work at home in little offices flanking the front door of their two-story house in Pacific Meadows near 156th Street and West Dodge Road. They're close enough to overhear each other's phone conversations.

"She does the work, and I talk on the phone," Bill said. "It's not fair, but that's the way it is."

Evonne's office was the dining room. Bill's was a sitting room. She shares the space with a piano and an industrial-size four-drawer file cabinet. Bill's office walls are decorated with family pictures and framed photos of the veterans they brought to Omaha.

Their goal is to create a display for all remaining 39 states as quickly as possible, bring them all together to display in Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day 2016, and then launch them on a national tour.

Bill has talked with a local trucking company about providing a rig for the tour emblazoned with Remembering Our Fallen banners on the sides of the trailer. To complete all 50 states in a bit more than two years is an aggressive goal that will require more manpower than Evonne at a computer and more money than Bellevue University can provide.

So Bill is on a mission to find individual or corporate sponsors to help make it happen. He hopes to find them in Nebraska.

"We think it would be perfect if it was a Nebraska gift to the nation," he said.

Evonne said the need for the exhibit — in individual states and a national tour — is now.

"The World War II Memorial in Washington came 60 years after the war," she said. "All the families who lost loved ones couldn't benefit and heal from that memorial. Remembering Our Fallen helps these families now."

The Williamses said they are now doing what they were meant to do.

"We just have to get them all done," Bill said. "We have to do it now."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1127,

Foiled by J.R.

Bill and Evonne Williams were married in Omaha on a November Friday in 1980.

The reception was held 150 miles away at the Legion Club in Deshler, Neb. The Omaha disc jockey team of Skid Row and Johnny O provided music and entertainment.

But they had primetime competition. It was the night CBS broadcast the "Dallas'' episode revealing who shot tycoon character J.R. Ewing, the greedy schemer in a wealthy, feuding Texas oil family. Among the estimated 83 million people watching was nearly everyone invited to the Williams' wedding dance. It was, at the time, the highest-rated TV episode in U.S. history.

"I was on the dance floor and wondering why nobody was dancing,'' Evonne said. "But nobody would come out of the bar. Nobody had a VCR back then. They were standing 50 feet deep, all watching a little TV.''

Now more than three decades later, for sentimental reasons, the Williamses watch TNT's next-generation "Dallas."

Preflight jitters prompt a pep talk

Sometimes even someone from the Greatest Generation needs a pep talk.

Minutes before boarding for the final World War II Honor Flight from Omaha to Washington, D.C., in 2009, organizer Bill Williams walked down the aisle of a bus.

It was 4:30 a.m. and 10 buses were parked on the Eppley Airfield tarmac near a towering Boeing 747. Boarding would begin in half an hour.

A veteran tugged Williams' sleeve. Can I talk to you, the man asked.

Williams knelt beside the veteran.

The veteran said he had never flown; his wartime travel was all by troopship. He was afraid to get on the aircraft.

Let's talk about it, Williams said.

"I said, 'You survived the Depression.'"

Yes, it was very difficult on my family.

"You survived World War II."

Yes, combat in the Pacific.

"How old are you?"


"Well, you survived the Depression. You survived World War II. You survived life in general. What's the worst that can happen? You die on the plane? So what?"

The veteran paused, looked at Williams and said, "Let's go!"

Nebraskan's funeral stands out

Nebraska was the first state to have a veteran die on a World War II Honor Flight.

Don Dragoo of Crete, Neb., who was ill, died on the return flight in 2008.

His daughter, Cindy Slone of Lincoln, told organizers Bill and Evonne Williams that if he had died in a nursing home, most people wouldn't know or care. His death on an Honor Flight made national news.

Bill said Dragoo's funeral was memorable.

"There were about 30 guys from that flight, all in their red (Honor Flight) shirts, some in wheelchairs," he said. "The casket came down the line and those guys all stood as straight as they could. And they saluted."

Red badges of remembrance are cherished

An Honor Flight is a highly anticipated trip of a lifetime for many veterans.

Sometimes a lifetime isn't long enough.

The Friday afternoon before a Tuesday flight in 2008, the wife of 87-year-old World War II veteran John Zimola of Fremont, Neb., called Bill Williams in tears.

"She said, 'John doesn't get to go. He died this morning.'"

After the flight, Bill Williams and his wife took the commemorative hat and red polo shirt Zimola would have received to his widow. She invited them to see his bedroom.

"He had his clothes for the trip laid out," Bill said. "She left them there. His shoes were shined and ready to go two weeks before the Honor Flight, but he didn't make it."

The trip is a life milestone for many veterans. The shirts are proudly worn red badges of remembrance.

The Williamses try to attend the funerals of Honor Flight participants. Bill said it's particularly moving to see a veteran, in his casket, wearing his red Honor Flight shirt.

"They look forward to the trip, and then they bask in the glow of it for the rest of their lives," he said. "I'll never forget it."

Korean War honor flight set for March

A Korean War Honor Flight is scheduled to ferry 450 Nebraska veterans to Washington, D.C., on three chartered aircraft March 25, 2014. The trip will cost $485,000, said organizer Bill Williams. Two large donations kicked off the project. Ted Hubbard of South Bend, Neb., donated $200,000 from his late parents, through the Theodore F. and Claire M Hubbard Family Foundation. An anonymous donor contributed $90,000. Korea veterans who participated in an October Honor Flight also generously donated money, Williams said. Williams encourages people to "adopt'' a veteran by sponsoring that person's seat on the plane, at a cost of $800. Tax-deductible donations of any amount can be made online or mailed to the Korean War Veterans Honor Flight Fund at the Midlands Community Foundation, 945 N. Adams St., Suite 7, Papillion, NE 68046. The foundation's website is

Remembering our Fallen schedule

Schedule for upcoming displays in Nebraska and Iowa


Today: VFW Post No. 2503, 8904 Military Road

Tuesday-Saturday: Disabled American Veterans, 4515 F St.

Jan. 6-10: Fremont High School

Jan. 13-17: T.D. Ameritrade headquarters, 200 S. 108th Ave.

Jan. 18-26: Douglas County West High School, Valley

Jan. 27-31: Arlington High School


Jan. 9-13: Exira-EHK Middle School, Exira

Jan. 14-17: Exira-EHK High School, Elk Horn

Jan. 22: Veterans Day at the Capitol, Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines

For schedules in other states and more information, go to

Evonne and Bill Williams are flanked by their family, from left: Army 1st Lt. Sam Williams; former Marine Corps Sgt. Max Williams; and daughter-in-law Michelle Williams and her husband, Army 1st Lt. Ben Williams, holding their daughter, Reagan. The Williamses' fourth son, Marine 1st Lt. Tom Williams, is serving in Afghanistan and could not be present for the photo.