Warren Vincent isn’t a stranger to Marion County — he has a regular monthly stop collecting cans for Kansas Honor Flights in Hillsboro.
Vincent’s green pickup and flag-bedecked trailer were in the Subway parking lot in Marion on Saturday for what he called “a trial run,” and he’ll be back.
“We’re going to start doing it the third Saturday of every month,” Vincent said. “We’ve got a pretty good turnout here today. We’ve got bills in the collection can, too.”
Vincent didn’t serve in the military, but was inspired to do something to help send WWII veterans to Washington, District of Columbia, after seeing videos of veterans returning, he said.
“I had uncles in WWII, and I thought we could do something to help,” he said.
His first inclination was to make a monthly personal donation, he said, but his daughter had collected cans for a fundraiser. He decided to give that a try.
In his first five years, he collected enough cans to send 46 veterans on honor flights, he said. He’s earned enough this year to send four more.
“It’s a big deal now,” Vincent said. “We’ve recycled over 10,000 pounds this year alone. We’re collecting about 750 lbs. a week.”
Vincent is on the road every Saturday, with visits scheduled for Lindsborg, Salina, Hillsboro, Abilene, Hesston, Marquette, Lyons, and Marion in May. Many towns have set up 24/7 collection sites, so Vincent has more pickups to do during the week, as well as a trip to Hutchinson to trade in his cans for cash.
The can operation is nearly a full-time job for Vincent, but on top of that he still holds down a real full-time job.
“I’m not retired,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the home fires burning and a roof over our heads.”
Kansas Honor Flights was started with WWII veterans in mind, but its mission has expanded, Vincent said.
“We’re taking WWII veterans, that’s a priority, and any terminally-ill veterans, but we’re also taking Korean and Vietnam veterans. That’s kind of new this year.”
Veterans are accompanied on the three-day, two-night trip by an aide who is typically a family member or friend. Visiting the memorials relevant to the wars in which they fought is the primary mission, but Vincent said they see “about everything there is to see.”
Vincent got some unexpected help Saturday from Korean veteran and honor flight participant Don Fruechting.
“Don rounded up cans from Marion County Lake and the VFW,” Vincent said.
Several people stopped to inquire what Vincent was doing, and said they would return with cans the next time he was in town. Vincent also collected about $40 in donations.
Vincent’s next trip to Marion will be May 21, when he will set up shop from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Subway parking lot.