Hutchinson veteran rewarded with honor flight to Washington, DC

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In the small office of Kindred Hospice on Tuesday morning, Kindred staff, volunteers and family members surrounded David Bartlett, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam conflict and Michael Juarez, a U.S. Army veteran of the same conflict, to celebrate their upcoming May 9 honor flight to Washington D.C.

Bartlett is one of the Kindred Hospice patients who regularly meets with veteran volunteer Juarez. The two share kinship and support as both are Vietnam War veterans.

The Dream Foundation made Bartlett’s dream of attending the Honor Flight come true. Department of Veterans Affairs Robert J. Dole Medical Center and Regional Office driver Gene Sexton presented Dream Foundation gifts for their upcoming flight.

“I think it’s going to be really great, and David is going to like it,” Juarez said. “We will take lots of pictures.”

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The Dream Foundation helps to make candidates’ dreams come true. In this case, it was an honor flight to Washington DC for Bartlett.

“It’s an honor, and I’m very happy to see the Vietnam War Memorial and to take Mike with me as well,” Bartlett said.

Flight organization

During the private ceremony at Kindred’s office on Main Street, several staff and volunteers, the wives of Bartlett and Juarez, Judy Bartlett and Sandy Juarez, and some family members were in attendance.

Fifth District VFW Commander and President of the Hutchinson Kansas Honor Flight, John Hooker sat down with Juarez and Bartlett to share flight details and congratulate them on the opportunity.

“It’s the trip of a lifetime,” Hooker said. “When I went with 32 Vietnam vets, 14 Korean vets, and five WWII vets, it was super cool to pick their brains and ask them what their experiences were to compare mine.”

Hooker said the honor flight would first land in Baltimore, where Bartlett and Juarez would visit Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the Stars and Stripes.

The next day, Bartlett and Juarez will visit Washington, D.C.’s War and Conflict Memorials and watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The trip ends with a return flight from Baltimore to Wichita.

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Kindred Hospice Volunteer Services Manager Brandi Rice said she and Preston Pelkey, Kindred’s Veteran Volunteer Chair, worked to create this first opportunity for one of their veteran patients.

“That’s the idea behind our veteran volunteer program, and Mike (Juarez) has taken it to a whole new level,” Rice said. “It just gives him a real testament to Mike and the program.”

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