Supporting area veterans
CJ Bio America donates to Honor Flight; $30,000 check presented at Veterans Memorial Park
Since the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight was founded in 2009, more than 3,000 veterans have flown to Washington, D.C. to view their war memorials.
Those flights have been made possible through countless private donations totaling about $2 million, according to Ron Newsum, founder of the local Honor Flight.
On Wednesday, CJ Bio America showed its support for the cause by donating $30,000 to the Honor Flight program.
Representatives from the company and Honor Flight board members gathered at Veterans Memorial Park where Yunil Hwang, head of bio business for CJ CheilJedang, presented a check to Newsum. CJ CheilJedang is the parent company of CJ Bio America, a company located west of Fort Dodge that produces amino acids used in livestock feed.
“We are thankful the dollars we get goes strictly to the veterans,” Newsum said. “We don’t send any money to any state or national organization. There’s 10 of us on the board and not one of us receives a dime.”
Newsum said the board would never ask a veteran to pay for the trip themselves.
“The veterans themselves cannot pay for it,” Newsum said. “They have already paid their dues. It’s a trip of a lifetime. There’s no way to say thanks to those veterans who gave so much of themselves 50 or 60 years ago.”
Newsum was inspired to start the Honor Flight because of his stepfather, Clem Hentges, a World War II veteran who served on a PT boat while in the U.S. Navy.
He wanted to get his stepfather to Washington, D.C. see his war memorial and realized the best way was to start a local chapter of the Honor Flight.
On Wednesday, Newsum placed flowers around a marker dedicated to Hentges at Veterans Memorial Park.
Hentges, who was 95 at the time, was on that inaugural flight in May 2010. Hentges died just three months later.
The flights started with just World War II veterans. They were eventually expanded to include Korean War veterans and Vietnam War veterans.
The next Honor Flight is scheduled to depart from the Fort Dodge Regional Airport on Aug. 28. It marks the 20th flight.
Veterans Memorial Park
CJ Bio America is also funding a Korean War monument that will be placed at Veterans Memorial Park.
The monument, which costs about $7,000, will be placed near the Air Force monument.
“We wanted to pay tribute to Terry Moehnke and the work he and his team do in maintaining Veterans Memorial Park, and to view where we will place a memorial to honor the heroes who fought to preserve the freedom for South Korea,” said Luke Palmer, director of environmental, social and governance at CJ Bio America. “We are having a Korean War monument built, to be placed at the park to honor veterans from the Korean War.”
Moehnke’s vision for Veterans Memorial Park began in 2007 after a local serviceman named J.J. Bonnell Jr. was killed in action while serving in Iraq. Bonnell was a U.S. Marine. He was part of a unit that specialized in security and bomb detection.
“My son was active duty with the 3rd Infantry and he was in Iraq at the same time,” Moehnke said. “When J.J. Bonnell got killed it affected a lot of people. This was an offshoot I had been thinking about. I wanted something to honor the veterans.”
The park started with 100 trees.
“They all have tree markers on them honoring veterans from Webster County and actually from around the whole country,” Moehnke said. “We were worried when we first started that what are we going to do because this is expensive. The first 100 trees went relatively quickly. We added on this additional walkway, then we ran out of trees again, then we added on to the west. Now we are over 350 trees, all of which have sold.”
Moehnke thanked CJ Bio America for their contributions to the park.
“I want to thank CJ for putting up a Korean War monument that should be here this fall,” Moehnke said. “As you know there has been a delay from COVID with all the granite coming into the country, so we are running a little behind.”
“We appreciate what you (CJ) have done. The Fallen Soldier memorial. We have every person from Webster County that was killed in action. I know we had a representative here from CJ at that time when we dedicated that a couple of years ago. We appreciate the involvement from CJ in the development of the park.”
Moehnke said he is pleased with the progress of the park. He’s also grateful for the many donations.
“This park was taken care of all with private donations,” he said. “We didn’t ask for any government assistance. The only thing the county helped us with was the steps. We have spent almost $1 million out here in the last 13 years, all in donations. We have virtually every state represented.”
Although Moehnke is credited with the vision and execution of the park, he is quick to direct credit to the county for maintaining it.
“I am a caretaker, but the county takes care of everything out here,” he said. “All I try to do is add features when we can and we appreciate everyone stepping up and helping us. We will probably be here a long time.”
In addition to the Korean War monument, a Purple Heart memorial is also anticipated to be added to the park this fall, Moehnke said.