Monday’s Honor Flight will take off on wings of song.

Many of the 100 World War II veterans aboard the Modern Woodmen Honor Flight were feted with a concert and a picnic Sunday afternoon at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.

The hour-long concert, “A Tribute to World War II Veterans: A Celebration of American Composers,” was held in the Allaert Auditorium at the St. Ambrose Galvin Fine Arts Center in honor of World War II veterans and as a special welcome to the Honor Flight veterans.

Joan Lescinski, university president, welcomed the crowd. “We are here today to offer a tribute to World War II veterans with a celebration of American composers,” she said. Against the backdrop of a huge American flag, performers Joan Trapp, Thea Engleson, William Campbell, Debbie Sanborne, Bryce Weber and Tamara Baugh performed songs that ranged from Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” to “This Is My Country.” During the finale, the audience joined the performers in singing “God Bless America.”

Master of ceremonies Don Wooten of Rock Island, who graduated from St. Ambrose in 1950, introduced each number. “It is appropriate that our honor flight takes off on wings of song,” he said.

After the concert, veterans and their families enjoyed an invitation-only “picnic,” which looked more like a banquet, in the Rogalski Center nearby. Among the veterans was John Meenan of Rock Island, accompanied by his wife, Jackie Meenan. He graduated from St. Ambrose in 1944, then served in the Navy during World War II. “My last year (in college), they put us in uniform,” he said. “I’d been in the Reserve since 1942.”

He was impressed by the concert, the picnic and the upcoming trip to see the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. “It’s just so wonderful that

people will honor the vets and remember what some of them have been through.”

Richard S. Harris, of Moline, will see the memorial for the first time.

“I was here (at St. Ambrose) in the 1960s,” he said. “My son was in West High School when I was going here. We did our homework at the dining room table at night.”

Harris was in the Pacific Theatre as part of the Navy Construction Battalion attached to the Marine Corps. He described his reaction to the concert, the picnic and the flight as “bewilderment.”

“All of the flying I ever did, for the most part, was through my work (at Bendix),” said Harris. His son, Doug Harris, of Davenport, will travel as a guardian for his dad and three other veterans. “I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of it and help the other guys to see it,” he said.

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Meenan has seen the memorial before, but he is eager to see it again and learn more about it with other veterans.

More than 100 veterans are going on the flight that was scheduled to take off at 8 a.m. Monday, said Kim Woodward, public relations specialist for Modern Woodmen. About 30 of them were housed overnight at St. Ambrose.

“(St. Ambrose) ... came up with the idea of hosting this,” Woodward said. “This is the greatest generation.” She said she is proud to “work for an organization who values the service of these men and women.”

Modern Woodmen, which is paying for this Honor Flight, provides services and recognition for veterans across the country. She is excited “to do one more thing to help veterans to thank them for what they’ve done.” 

The Modern Woodmen Honor Flight leaves  from the Quad-City International Airport, Moline, arriving in Dulles Airport near Washington at 11 a.m. The veterans then will visit the World War II Memorial as well as other sites including the Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Monument, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns. Tuesday’s agenda includes breakfast at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Maryland, a Modern Woodmen Convention, and visits to the Air Force Memorial, Iowa Jima Memorial and the National Museum of the Marine Corps. They fly back to the Quad-Cities on Tuesday night. This is the first two-day Honor Flight from the Quad-Cities and the first one to be sponsored by one organization.