Many of us have followed with interest the local coverage of the three Honor Flights that have taken Upper Peninsula World War II veterans to Washington D.C.
Recently I became interested in researching the history leading to these events.
In May of 2004, the World War II Memorial was finally completed honoring the 16 million who served in the U.S. military. Soon after its dedication in Washington D.C., the Honor Flight Network program began. In May of 2005, a retired Air Force captain and several members of a flight club flew 12 veterans on six private planes from Manassas, Va., to our nation's capital. From the onset in the development of the HFN, it was established there would be no cost to the veteran and the veterans would be personally escorted around D.C. for the entire day.
After the initial flight, thanks to dedicated volunteers throughout the U.S., veterans have been flown to D.C. from over 117 hubs in 40 states. Nationally as of November of 2011, over 81,000 veterans have flown to D.C. Locally, between September 2011 and September 2012, 237 Upper Peninsula veterans have traveled to D.C. , with a fourth trip tentatively planned for May 2013. The flight cost of $85,000 is funded by donations and volunteers pay their own expenses.
Barbara Van Rooy, associated with the Upper Peninsula Honor flight stated "we are trying to make sure that every World War II veteran is aware of our program and encourage them to go on this flight."
Nationally, it is estimated we are losing World War II veterans at the rate of approximately 900 plus per day. It is noteworthy that three flights have been organized, funded and completed from our local area in a 13-month span.
As we recall the words of the Preamble to the United States Constitution, "provide for the common defense, . . and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," we are at last honoring these veterans who should remind us what the words service, sacrifice and patriotism mean. Thank you.
Mae Belle Erickson