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East Sparta resident Bill Bowman earlier this year received a special honor for his service to the military.
In 2015, Bowman was at an American Legion meeting and saw a questionnaire to be part of an honor flight to Washington, D.C. In March, the Navy veteran of the Korean War received a call that he was eligible for the flight.
Eighty-seven veterans were were part of the flight including 35 who were in wheelchairs. The cost was $53,000 for the group to go, but everything was free thanks to donors. Chase Bank had fundraising program and donated $25,000. Among other donors was a middle school class from Columbus.
On May 22, Bowman arrived with his fellow veterans at the Columbus airport for a 5:30 a.m. flight to Baltimore. After landing, the group boarded three buses.
With a police escort, they never stopped on their ride to Washington, D.C. They breezed through red lights, intersections and interstate highways with precious passengers. It was quite a way to start Bowman's first ever trip to the nation's capital.
Each veteran had his own guardian that made sure he was comfortable and had everything he needed. Escorts were volunteers and paid for their own flight. Bowman's guardian was Judy McClelland.
"She wouldn't even let me buy her an nice cream cone," Bowman said. "They are the most unselfish people I ever met."
Some places the group visited included the Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Audie Murphy Statue, The Freedom Wall, Lincoln Memorial and Iwo Jima Memorial.
When they arrived back at the Columbus airport at 10:30 p.m., they were met by a crowd of cheering people. The students from the Columbus middle school were among those applauding and were wearing honor flight t-shirts.
"It was a once in a lifetime experience," Bowman said. "I would have never made it to Washington, D.C. if not for the honor flight. There were so many, many people who volunteered so we could make the trip."
Bowman is an active member of the Isaac L. Kinney American Legion Post 244, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church and many community activities. He raises a big garden and gives most of it away to his friends and neighbors.
Bowman, earlier this year, was named one of the Persons of the Year at the East Sparta Homecoming along with Shelbia Otte.