- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Efforts to fly more Nebraska veterans to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C., have taken an $80,000 hit.

Bill Williams, of Patriotic Productions in Omaha, said a donor has reduced his pledge to $20,000 from $100,000. So Williams is issuing another call for donations to help around 440 veterans make the all-expenses-paid trip.

“I hate to plead poor, but we are short,” Williams told the Omaha World-Herald.

Williams has chartered three jets to carry the vets, family members and volunteer guardians to the nation’s capital on March 25. The night before they’ll gather in Omaha for a dinner and ceremony, then they’ll board their planes early the next morning. Chartered buses in Washington will take them to the Korea, Vietnam, World War II and Lincoln memorials and Arlington National Cemetery. They’ll return that evening to a hero’s welcome in Omaha.

He organized a similar trip in October for 135 veterans. He and his wife, Evonne Williams, also organized honor flights for more than 1,500 World War II veterans in 2008 and 2009.

Invitations for the March excursion have been sent to more than 440 veterans who applied, Bill Williams said. Two of them have died since the invitations were sent, he said.

“That’s the urgency factor in getting this done,” Williams told the Lincoln Journal Star. “We need to get this done before they’re too sick or deceased.”

The total cost is about $475,000. Williams said the planes are paid for, but that the $80,000 is needed for other expenses such as buses, box lunches and other incidentals.

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