From the e-mails and voice mails, with a military flavor:
WWII MEMORIAL TRIP - As the World War II Memorial opened on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall five years ago, it occurred to a retired Air Force captain that many of those it honors would never be able to see it.
WWII veterans are dying at a rate of more than 1,100 a day, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs estimate. So Earl Morse founded Honor Flight, an organization that brings WWII veterans to the nation's capital to see the monument. Enlisting the help of veteran and former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, Morse began raising money to pay for airfare, food, lodging and transportation.
There has never been an Honor Flight from the Central Valley, and Steffan Stewart of Chowchilla wants to change that. He's arranged for former Flying Tiger Jim Dumas, 92, of Chowchilla to visit the memorial this month. Stewart also is trying to recruit enough veterans to fill a charter plane for a trip in October.
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"My target number is 200," Stewart said. "I've only got 192 to go."
Many veterans either don't know about Honor Flight or worry about the toll that travel will take on them at their advanced ages, he said. The organization's application is long on questions about their physical and medical conditions so that it can meet their needs in D.C., Stewart said.
Honor Flight pays the veterans' expenses, but it does not cover the cost for an accompanying guardian providing medical assistance.
Applications are available online at www.honorflight.org. They can be printed and mailed directly to Honor Flight, sent to Stewart at 7505 Eagle Ct., Chowchilla, or call him at (559) 975-9117. In Stanislaus and surrounding counties, veterans can call Buzz Johnson at 669-8815 for more information.
WELCOME HOME -- Marine Lance Cpl. Tim Waldron of Modesto, wounded Memorial Day in a training accident in the east African country of Djibouti, was scheduled to return to the valley from Bethesda, Md., this week to continue his rehabilitation. A faulty mortar exploded inside a cannon, shredding parts of his body with shrapnel. I wrote about the 22-year-old Davis High grad last week.
Waldron's family went to Bethesda to be with him at the naval hospital there, and was in the room a week ago when President Barack Obama made his first hospital visit as commander in chief. Waldron will begin physical therapy here and will receive other treatment at the veterans hospital in Palo Alto.
BOOK DUDE -- In November, I wrote about Korean War veteran Mike Stavrakakis who in 1961 went to the veterans hospital in Livermore to be checked for radiation poisoning and discovered there was nothing to read in the waiting room.
So he began collecting books, magazines, videotapes and DVDs to distribute to veterans hospitals, clinics and centers in Northern California. To that point, he'd taken more than 3,000 books to facilities in Livermore, Palo Alto, Yountville and other places.
As you might expect, some generous folks here offered him books, videos and more -- including handmade afghan blankets -- after my column appeared on Veterans Day 2008. Friday, he took 650 items to Livermore, putting him over the 5,000 mark.
Stavrakakis generally waits until he's collected enough materials to make it worth the trip. His wife, Mary, mandated Friday's excursion. "My patio was beginning to look like a book depository," Stavrakakis said. "She said, 'Are you going to get those out of there?' "
He plans to continue collecting and can be reached at 522-9202. Or you can find Stavrakakis among a group of veterans that meets for coffee most mornings at McDonald's, 2118 McHenry Ave. in Modesto.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED -- Last week, soldiers at Camp Arifjan in Iraq received their long-awaited container full of golf gear, courtesy of Modesto artist Bob Davidson and scores of others who either donated or helped get the goods overseas.
"They have some great activities planned for use of the food goods and golf equipment," Army mobility officer Joshua Hauger wrote in an e-mail to Davidson.
The food included almonds sent by Hughson Nut Co., which also packaged all of the golf clubs, bags, tees and other items for shipping.
Davidson, at his soldier son's request, began collecting the gear in September.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.