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Kelly Smith, Published February 21 2009

Students raise $3K for Honor Flight

Fundraiser helps WWII vets travel to see DC monument

Perhaps extra credit is in order for Eastwood Elementary students.

Two weeks ago, the West Fargo kids started collecting change aiming to raise $750 to send one local World War II veteran on the Northern Valley Honor Flight, an upcoming flight that will take area World War II vets to see the monument built in their honor in Washington, D.C.

Instead, they far exceeded their goal, raising enough money – more than $3,000 – to send five vets on the special trip.

“Everybody pulled together,” Northern Valley Honor Flight fundraising coordinator Lance Akers said. “This is fantastic. This is exactly what we need to make these flights happen.”

On Friday, the students got a glimpse of who they’re helping by hearing from one local vet who’s been on the trip.

“I’m not afraid of it at all,” said Barnesville vet Jack Schulstad, 82, about sharing stories of his two years aboard a Navy ship in the South Pacific. “I feel honored.”

For Schulstad, talking with these kids about his World War II experiences is just second nature. He said he’s never had a difficult time retelling his war stories to his children, grandchildren or the groups he frequently speaks to.

“They may not understand the sacrifices, but they understand the service,” Akers added.

Even if the kids didn’t truly grasp the sacrifices vets such as Schulstad made, they likely could see how much this trip means to them.

Schulstad, who went on the D.C. trip last year with his daughter, said seeing the World War II memorial is not only emotional, but “just thrilling.”

It’s a thrilling experience that the West Fargo students have now helped provide to five of the 90 veterans expected to take the trip in April.

“We’re very proud of all our students, staff and parents,” counselor and project organizer Joan Houdek said.

The $3,790 the school raised will go toward the $300,000 goal Akers said is needed to fund two trips.

“You’ve done wonderfully well this morning,” Schulstad told students, some who later stayed to shake his hand. “I feel honored to come visit you today.”

How to help

To help or contact the Northern Valley World War II Honor Flight, call coordinator Lance Akers at (701) 238-9298.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515