Student flies in Korean War veterans

More than 150 Korean War veterans will fly Saturday from Alabama to D.C. to see the monument dedicated to their military service for the first time.

Graduate student Stefan Celuch spent about seven months organizing this day-long trip, raising $100,000 to fly 180 veterans and volunteer assistants to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.

Fifty-eight years after serving in Korea, the veterans will spend the day visiting the monuments honoring veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Celuch, a former member of the Army National Guard, said the trip focused on Korean War veterans because he wanted to honor their service in a “forgotten war.”

“I want students today to understand the generational sacrifices these veterans made,” Celuch said.

As part of professor Myron Belkind’s distance learning course on communication, Celuch created a public relations campaign based on his ideas for the Valor Flight program.

The organization was inspired by the Tennessee Valley Honor Flights, which flew 1,300 World War II veterans to D.C. since the monument for that war was completed in 2004. It has already begun fundraising and recruiting veterans for another trip next spring.

Although the strategic public relations major lives in Alabama as a distance-learning student, he hopes to engage students living on-campus as future volunteers.

Celuch attributed his successful fundraising events – which include charity car shows, movie screenings and a fundraising cruise – to the public relations skills he learned at GW. The group also received hundreds of individual donations – including an anonymous gift totalling $70,000.

Belkind said the course project is geared toward preparing students for their professional goals.

“I always try to have students do projects that enable them to transform an academic assignment into a real-life professional experience,” Belkind said.

The part-time professor said Celuch – who will graduate in May at the age of 50 years old – was the only student to see real gains from the project outside of class.

“You can talk theory all you want, but here is a real life example,” Belkind said.

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