Uplifting program for veterans to get off ground

The Honour Project will give free rides to all veterans in a 1942 Boeing Stearman.

Kathleen and Mark Small pose in front of the "Jungle Queen," a 1942 Boeing Stearman that Mark Small plans to use to give short flights to area veterans as a part of the Honour Project.

Kathleen and Mark Small pose in front of the "Jungle Queen," a 1942 Boeing Stearman that Mark Small plans to use to give short flights to area veterans as a part of the Honour Project. Blair Hanley Frank

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Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Honour Project, email info@wallawallaam... or send a check payable to AMVETS to AMVETS Honour Project, P.O. Box 2535, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

— If you hear the whir of a biplane overhead during the coming weekends, it may be carrying one of America's finest.

After their son, Lance Cpl. Nat Small, was injured during a tour with the Marines in Afghanistan, Kathleen and Mark Small decided they wanted to give back to the veterans in the Walla Walla area.

"We wanted to honor veterans, not just people who served in combat, but guys who have served our country and done an amazing job," Kathleen Small said.

The Smalls created the Honour Project to do just that. Mark Small wants to take veterans on flights over Walla Walla in a restored 1942 Boeing Stearman, which was originally used as a U.S. military pilot trainer.

"It was put into service Nov. 13, 1942, and it was training pilots to fly," Mark Small said. "Then they would go on from that aircraft to bigger aircraft, some single-engine fighters, some would go on to multi-engine bombers."

Mark plans for flights to take off from Walla Walla Regional Airport and last about 20 minutes. The Smalls plan to bring veterans together for an afternoon with their families at the airport.

When discussing his motivation for creating the program, Mark cited his long-standing love of flying as a major reason.

"I love to fly, and of course I think if I love to fly everybody should love to fly," Mark said. "I want to share something that I love with other people that I admire."

Mark named his Stearman the "Jungle Queen," after the plane his late father, Ted Small, flew as a captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Don Schack, chaplain for the Walla Walla chapter of AMVETS, remembers a time when Stearmans flew over Walla Walla after taking off from the Walla Walla Army Air Base.

"I'm looking forward to it, I really am," he said. "I can remember the days I was on that flight line."

Schack, who used to be the AMVETS commander for the state of Washington, said the reception of the Honour Project has been very positive.

"We (AMVETS) just think it's a great project for everybody," he said.

According to Schack, AMVETS members will bring postcards to local veterans' organizations that can be used to sign up for flights with the Honour Project.

Mark plans to run flights on the weekends through mid-October.

"Our biggest thing now is to maintain the funding as we go," Schack said.

According to Mark, flying the Stearman for an hour costs about $200, which means outside support is key for the long-term health of the Honour Project.

Right now, though, the Smalls are focused on the veterans.

"We feel real strongly that it doesn't matter what war these guys fought in, but we feel like they're all the greatest of their generations." Mark said. "So we're looking forward to honoring all of them."

Veterans interested in participating in rides from the Honour Project should contact Mark Small at 509-525-1869.

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