Gary Kirkwood was the cheerful face who welcomed staff and students bright and early every morning at Keystone Learning Services. Gary worked part time as custodian at Keystone for the past 8 years. Unfortunately, an automobile accident took his life in the early morning hours of April 12th. Gary was on his way to catch a bus that would take him to the Kansas City airport that was headed to DC.
Gary had applied for the Honor Flight Kansas program after a long-time friend told him about the event that selects military veterans from across the United States to be flown to Washington DC. Earlier this year, Gary found out he was selected. Gary was very excited about the opportunity.
The Honor Flight network is a non-profit organization created to thank and honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices by flying these heroes to Washington, DC to visit their memorials over two days. The program began in May, 2005 with a combination of small planes and commercial flights being used to transport WWII veterans that first year. Over the years, the program has grown, and by the end of 2017, the network escorted over 200,000 veterans to their memorials, free of cost to the veterans. There are now 140 Honor Flight Network regional hubs across the United States. Kansas has 9 high schools that participate in the program, where students become guardians that accompany each veteran on the trip.
Gary was drafted at the age of 18 into the U.S. Army, where he then served in the Korean war for 2 years. Gary was a lifelong resident of Meriden, KS. He and his wife, Susie, have 2 sons and 2 daughters, along with 12 grandchildren, who he lovingly referred to as his, “Grandmonsters”. J Gary was retiring from Keystone Learning Services later this month. His happy smile and laughter are very much missed.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.