Decade of Honor-KCCI-TV

2019 Governors Emmy® Award – Decade of Honor – KCCI-TV

Ten years ago, America’s memorial built in Washington, DC to honor World War II veterans was still new. Iowa’s WWII veterans were in their 80s and 90s and few of them had made the cross-country trip. So in May 2009, KCCI spotlighted an Honor Flight out of Omaha, sparking a movement that has directly led to 3,241 Iowa veterans getting a free one-day trip to Washington, DC.
Iowa businessman Jeff Ballenger began the movement in early 2009. He and his team of volunteers wanted every aging veteran who wanted to see their memorial to have the opportunity to go to Washington, DC. KCCI reporter Eric Hanson and photojournalist Glen Biermann travelled on that flight out of Omaha. Within 48 hours of their story airing on KCCI, Ballenger and his team approached HyVee’s corporate leaders, asking for their support.
Once the executives at the West Des Moines-based grocery chain saw KCCI’s story, they didn’t hesitate. HyVee immediately committed $250,000 to central Iowa’s first Honor Flight, fully funding a chartered 747 jumbo jet.
Within weeks, Ankeny-based Casey’s General Stores joined the effort, contributing another $250,000 to fully fund a second 747 jet. In the years following, Polk County Board of Supervisors, WWII veteran Bill Knapp and other civic groups have contributed major funding.
The combined broadcast, corporate and non-profit Iowa-based effort has raised $3,000,000, allowing 3.241 veterans to make the trips that continue, now honoring Iowa’s Korean and Vietnam veterans.
To mark the tenth anniversary of KCCI’s leadership in the Central Iowa Honor Flights, Hanson and Biermann produced a 30-minute special that aired on Memorial Day 2019. It showcased how the project began, highlighted the most moving moments KCCI’s team has shared over the years and spotlighted the massive team of volunteer doctors, paramedics and fundraisers it has taken to make Iowa’s Honor Flights one of the largest efforts in America’s Honor Flight Network.
KCCI’s Decade of Honor special also noted most of the World War II veterans who made those first trips in 2009 have now passed away, illustrating the importance of the broadcaster’s, businesses’ and volunteers’ quick teamwork to respond to the community-based effort before it was too late.
The power of Iowa’s Honor Flights is illustrated in the emotions KCCI viewers saw on the veterans’ faces at Arlington National Cemetery. Many of those veterans have even been buried in their Honor Flight polos, representing the pride they have in their military service and the gratitude they have for Iowa’s generosity.
The effort of volunteers, the spotlight of KCCI’s coverage and the financial leadership of HyVee and Casey’s directly led to the movement’s success – a perfect example of the power of teamwork between broadcasters, businesses and non-profits.