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Airlift makes Christmas merrier for veterans

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Photo submitted VFW members from Delta and Montrose are joined by pilots, crewmen, and Atlantic Aviation volunteers to unload nearly a ton and a half of food and toys destined for Western Slope veterans and their families.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, members of Lee Marts Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3571 of Delta and Montrose VFW Post 784 met three incoming aircraft on the ramp of Atlantic Aviation in Montrose. The three planes were part of the joint Holiday Airlift sponsored by Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA) and the VFW, airlifting thousands of pounds of food and toys throughout the state to help brighten the holidays of many veterans and their families. The three aircraft owned by Jack McClurg, Bret Tredway and Gary Mancuso delivered nearly 2,700 pounds of cargo to Montrose. VFW members, Atlantic employees and the aircraft owners and crews all chipped in to unload the planes.

Jack, his pilot Loren Hofer and crew Harold Hiler and Shane Whitehead were the first to head back to Centennial Airport to make it to Denver in time for the Broncos kickoff. Bret, his wife Shen, with their crew of two miniature Australian shepherds, Timber and Ally, were the next to head back over the Rockies to the Front Range. Gary's aircraft, crewed by Ray Lallo was the last aircraft into Montrose and the last out.

VFW members loaded out about half of the cargo in two aircraft, the first owned and piloted by Steve Mathis which flew to Durango. The second, owned and piloted by Rick Weaver, flew to Cortez where he and his "copilot" grandson were met by Dove Creek VFW post members. The rest of the cargo was divided between the Montrose and Delta posts for delivery with locally donated food and toys to help nearly 60 veterans and their families.

Montrose residents Rick and Steve joined with dozens of Front Range pilots and crew members who donated their time and their aircraft to assist veterans. This is the seventh year of the airlift. This year a total of 26 aircraft were involved in the statewide program. With the help of many CABA members such as Atlantic in Montrose and lots of VFW members, pilots and crews, and the generosity of so many more, this Christmas will be a little merrier for many Colorado veterans.

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