First Responder Golf Open raises funds for Mid-Michigan Honor Flight
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Dozens of area golfers took part in a golf scramble at the Fox Run Country Club to raise funds to take veterans to Washington D.C. to visit memorials created in their honor.
The third annual First Responder Golf Open to Support Mid-Michigan Honor Flight was held on Friday, June 29.
First Lt. Josh Lator, the commander for the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police, said the golf outing was first organized to get law enforcement and firefighters involved. Since then, it has blossomed into a larger community event.
“It was named that the first year because we were hoping that law enforcement would jump on board and support us, and they brought friends so it has grown,” Lator said. “We have 22 teams out there this year.”
Mid-Michigan Honor Flight is the official charity for the Seventh District of the Michigan State Police, which covers counties in the northern Lower Peninsula.
Troopers and staff from the Houghton Lake Post plan, organize, and staff the golf outing.
“That is the heart and soul of is, just to raise as much money as we can to get veterans on Honor Flights,” Lator said.
Mid-Michigan Honor Flight covers 50 counties in the Lower Peninsula.
Mid-Michigan Honor Flight is a 501(c)(3) organization which raises funds to take veterans to the nation’s capitol for a day at no cost to the veteran and their guardian.
A total of 87 veterans were transported to Washington D.C. this spring.
While visiting the capitol, veterans are taken to the World War II memorials, Korean War memorials, and the Vietnam Wall. They also witness the changing of the guard at the Arlington Cemetery. The veterans then go to view the Marine Corps Memorial and Air Force Memorial.
This fall, Mid-Michigan Honor Flight will host the veterans at Camp Grayling for a unique three-day stay.
The veterans will register at Camp Grayling and hold a meet and greet.
In the evening, dinner will be served along with entertainment and a keynote speaker.
The following morning, breakfast will be provided to the veterans before they are bussed to the Cherry Capital Airport to travel to Washington D.C.
On the third day, veterans who have been on previous Honor Flight trips will gather at Camp Grayling for a reunion. The organization hopes to have over 300 World War II veterans attend.
It will be the 10th Honor Flight hosted by the organization.
“That’s a huge milestone for us,” Lator said.
It cost $500 per veteran to go on an Honor Flight and an overall $110,000 to charter a passenger plane for the trip.
The golf outing on Friday raised over $10,162 with some sponsor checks still pending to come in. That was double the amount raised last year. The funds came from registration fees, raffles, 50/50 raffles, and a silent auction.
“The people were very generous that came out today and we so appreciate what they’re doing,” said Tricia Donegan, the hub director for the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight
The funds will help entice sponsors, organizations, and businesses to make donations for the flight.
“This is going to go a long way for helping us get there,” Donegan said.
Bill Brandel, of Houghton Lake, golfed in the tournament for the first time this year with a foursome of friends. He takes part in a bowling league with Trooper Kyle Mclnerney, the community service trooper for the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police.
“It’s a great cause,” Brandel said. “There’s nothing better than this. The veterans deserve it and we’re doing anything we can to help them out.”
Fox Run Country Club owners Bob and Geri Koutnik are staunch supporters of the military and veterans. They have raised thousands of dollars for the National Guard, veteran’s causes, and family support funds to support soldiers’ families when their loved ones are deployed.
The Fox Run Country Club also hosts an annual Patriot Day Golf outing, which raises funds for the dependents of disable veterans.
“This was just one more cause that we have embraced wholeheartedly,” Bob said. “The Honor Flight is a tremendous benefit.”
Bob witnessed a large group of veterans at the World War II monument, while he was in Washington D.C.
“The pride and the tears streaming down their faces was very moving to me,” he said. “We can’t do enough for them.”
World War II veterans have been referred to as the Greatest Generation. Bob believes the Korean War Vietnam War veterans deserve to have the same billing for the sacrifices they have made for freedom.
“The things they have done have been tremendous for our country and we can’t begin to repay them,” he said.
Paul Myslinski, from Grayling, golfed in the outing. He served a guardian for his father, George Myslinski, who served in the Pacific during World War II. At the time, George was 99, and he was the oldest veteran on the Honor Flight last fall.
“It was a great experience and he really loved it,” Paul said.
Three days after the trip, George, who lives in Taylor, suffered a stroke. He now uses a wheel chair to get around.
“It was just great that we were able to get that in when we did,” Paul said.
Ernie Wagner, from Frederic, also served as a guardian for the Honor Flight trip last fall. He has had family members that served in nearly every branch for the armed forces.
“I come from a military family, so it meant a lot to me,” Wagner said. “For me to go on the trip, it was good for me, and it’s a good way of giving back.”
To make donations or for more information, go to www.midmichiganhonorflight.com. The organization also has a Facebook page.
“We certainly appreciate every dime, nickel, dollar or five dollars – anything they can spare,” Donegan said.