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Lawyer expertise and experience lift Honor Flight to new heights

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Imagine Indiana without the city of Fort Wayne – a city of more than 200,000 people – gone.

Now image that every person in both Evansville and Gary is a wounded survivor of war. Another 200,000 people, this time injured in some way due to combat.

honorflight-15col.jpg Attorney Bob Kistler, right, helped check in participants and companions at the Fort Wayne International Airport before the Oct. 23 Honor Flight (IL Photo/Steve Linsenmayer)

The total population of these cities is equivalent to the number of U.S. casualties in World War II. No Americans before or since have a real understanding of the impact that war had on our country.

Lloyd Urbine understands. At 96, Urbine remembers quite a bit about his service during that war, good, bad and sad. On his recent trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial, the wall of more than 4,000 gold stars impressed him; each star represents 100 Americans who were killed or wounded in that war.

“It was important to me, being in the war and my experiences,” he said. “It was a terrible tragedy we had because it brought about so much death and destruction. I got to associate with lots of people during the war, and I know what death and destruction look like.”

Urbine’s trip was courtesy of Honor Flight, a national organization whose mission is to transport America’s veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the monument that commemorates their service, thus honoring and thanking them for that service. Founded in 2005 by a veteran pilot who realized many elderly vets, especially those from World War II, were dying without seeing their national monument, Honor Flight now has hubs across the country, including three in Indiana. Priority is given to World War II, Korean War and terminally ill veterans.

“This year is the first year we’ll have done three flights,” said Bob Myer, volunteer president of Honor Flight Northeast Indiana in Fort Wayne. “The main reason we added a flight is because we have an application file that keeps growing. We hoped that we were finished with our World War II vets and that we could move on to the Korean War, but right now we’ve got over 200 applications between World War II and Korean War. We’re trying to work those down because most of the World War II vets are in their 90s now.”

Right place, right time

honorflight2-15col.jpg Navy veteran Ben Gibson of Fort Wayne (IL Photo/Steve Linsenmayer)

Law brings people together but not often for positive reasons. Fortunately for Bob Kistler, an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Fort Wayne, the law and a fellow lawyer forged his connection to Honor Flight.

“A partner in my group knew I had experience filing with the IRS for tax-exempt organizations,” Kistler explained. “[They] needed assistance with getting Honor Flight Northeast Indiana hub recognized by the IRS under 501(c)3. Initially it was a pro bono project to assist with them registering with the IRS as a not-for-profit. Once the project was over [the founder] was very persuasive in asking me to join the board. I was on the board for two years. Since I left the board I continued to be involved pro bono as they need or just as a volunteer.”

Kistler attributes his involvement in Honor Flight to being in the right place at the right time, yet much of his involvement stems from his own military experience and others’ knowledge of it. His position as chair of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Military & Veterans Affairs Committee as well as his involvement in Indiana’s Lawyers for Soldiers program advertised his interest in and service to vets.

“I was in the Army over 10 years – long before I became a lawyer,” he said. “One of the things I enjoyed most about military service was the soldiers. It is a very different experience than most people have about where they work and who they work with. It makes me particularly aware of veterans’ issues.”

Preparing for take off

Urbine recalls the send-off he and other vets received Oct. 23, the day of their Honor Flight. He was surprised so many people got up so early – the group gathered at 6 a.m. – to bid them bon voyage.

“I was embarrassed by how much attention we got,” he said. “We didn’t have to do anything except go along on this wonderful trip. These kids had sent all these letters, and some of them were pretty well written, a whole lot of notes and pictures saying thank you for your service. Then they had something, and it was a blanket from the high school. A couple of girls worked on the thing so I’ll have to send them a personal thank you.”

As an Honor Flight honoree, Urbine is unaware of the time and orchestration necessary to plan and present such a trip. With last month’s government shutdown, the trip was tentative, but the group received permission to visit the World War II and Korean memorials from the U.S. National Park Service. The day’s itinerary generally includes the war memorials, including the Vietnam Wall, Iwo Jima, Arlington Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Women’s Memorial, because the trip generally has women vets as well as men.

Kistler has participated as both guardian and trip leader on a few occasions and can attest to the “marathon” of planning, training and oversight required to transport 150 people more than 1,000 miles roundtrip and guide them through a city-wide tour in a day’s time. When half of those people are elderly and require wheelchairs, walkers or other specialized health equipment to get around, careful planning becomes even more important.

The trick, according to Kistler, is to plan so well that the day goes off without a hitch and the vets need do nothing but enjoy themselves. From the 6 a.m. welcome wagon to the hot breakfast prepared and served by the Indiana Air National Guard to the bands playing as the group disembarks at Reagan National Airport to the disposable cameras and other perks the vets receive through the course of the day, this marathon is all about them.

“They spend a day with someone who is dedicated to thanking them for their service and will go out of their way to provide them with unique experiences and takeaways from the trip,” he said. “You get a chance to meet someone who really is a hero.”

Salute them one and all

There is a certain appeal to the Honor Flight concept that resonates with many who seek volunteer opportunities at the organization. The Northeast Indiana hub has hundreds of volunteer applications, but can’t offer service positions to everyone.

“It is one example of one of the good things going on,” Kistler said. “I appreciate not just veterans but all the people who are doing things to help and honor them.”

The American Legion, VFW, AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans are larger organizations that assist vets on many levels in many ways, while smaller local organizations also seek volunteer assistance.

“Veterans that have served are experiencing a lot of issues unique to every one of them,” he said. “You can’t really see what’s happened to them but it’s incredibly important to make them aware of how much we value their service.”•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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