In Kindred Hospice’s small office 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 Kindred Hospice’s patients who meets regularly with veteran volunteer Juarez. The two share kinship and support as both are veterans of the Vietnam War.
The Dream Foundation fulfilled Bartlett’s dream of attending the Honor Flight. Robert J. Dole Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office Center driver Gene Sexton presented gifts from the Dream Foundation for their upcoming flight.
“I think it’s going to be really great, and David will enjoy it,” Juarez said. “We’ll take a lot of pictures.”
The Dream Foundation helps make applicants’ dreams come to fruition. In this case, it was an Honor Flight to Washington D.C for Bartlett.
“It’s an honor, and I’m very excited to see the Vietnam War memorial and take Mike with me too,” Bartlett said.
During the private ceremony at Kindred’s office on Main Street, multiple staff members and volunteers, Bartlett and Juarez’s wives, Judy Bartlett and Sandy Juarez and a few family members attended.
Fifth District VFW Commander and chairman of the Hutchinson Kansas Honor Flight, John Hooker met with Juarez and Bartlett to share the flight details and congratulate them on the opportunity.
“It’s the trip of a lifetime,” Hooker said. “When I went with 32 Vietnam veterans, 14 Korean veterans and five World War II veterans, it was super cool to pick their brains and ask them what their experiences to compare my own.”
Hooker said the Honor Flight would first land in Baltimore, where Bartlett and Juarez would visit Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The next day, Bartlett and Juarez will visit Washington, D.C.’s war and conflict memorials and witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The trip ends with a flight back from Baltimore to Wichita.
Kindred Hospice volunteer services manager Brandi Rice said she and Preston Pelkey, the president of veteran volunteers at Kindred, worked to create this first-time opportunity for one of their veteran patients.
“This is the idea behind our veteran volunteer program, and Mike (Juarez) has taken it to a whole new level,” Rice said. “This gives it just a true testament to Mike and the program.”