Honoring our heroes

To the Journal editor:

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 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 U.S. Air Force captain and several members of a flight club flew twelve veterans on six private planes from Manassas, Virginia 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 U.P. veterans have traveled to D.C. , with a fourth trip tentatively planned for May.

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 more than 900 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