Kan. honor flights halted after money goes missing

Associated Press Modified: November 23, 2012 at 9:31 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012
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Miller, who is free on bail, made her first court appearance Monday. Her attorney, Robert Anderson, refused to comment on the charges against her. She doesn't have a listed number, and a message sent to her through Facebook was not returned.

Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews said he couldn't comment about the investigation or a possible motive. But said if there is a guilty verdict in the case, his office will seek restitution.

Many veterans remain skeptical of the charges, noting that that Miller didn't have a luxurious lifestyle. She lived in a small, rented home and never seemed to have much cash, they said. During a recent bingo night at the American Legion hall in Great Bend, Miller mingled with veterans.

"She is a nice woman, and nobody thinks a thing about her being here," said Larry Buczinski, 65, of Great Bend, a retired Army staff sergeant who served in Vietnam. He said he suspects evidence was planted in Miller's home to implicate her in the thefts.

"Nobody here really believes what has happened to her," he said.

Before organizing the flights, Miller led the Kansas chapter of the American Legion Auxiliary in 2007 and 2008. The group conducts external audits and isn't aware of any problems, said Cherie Thomas, who now leads the auxiliary.

"Everybody is just shocked, that's all I can say," she said.

In hindsight, Foster said he wished his group conducted external audits too. It is nearly $40,000 in debt with about $14,000 of that owed to a prison printing shop that made keepsake memory books for veterans. With no money, it's now relying on volunteers to do things like apply for grants.

Jim McLaughlin, chairman of the board of the Honor Flight Network, said the national group exercises no financial oversight of the local groups that provide the flights. It was completely surprised by the charges against Miller, he said.

The now-defunct Central Prairie Honor Flights has handed over its records, along with leftover hats and T-shirts, to Hutchinson-based Kansas Honor Flight. President Mike VanCampen said Kansas Honor Flight volunteers have called people on the Central Prairie waiting list and been told they died or were too ill to fly.

"That is the call we hate to make," VanCampen said. "We just have to say we are sorry to hear that and couldn't get him up to Washington to see the memorial built in his honor."



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