Honor Flight vets recognized

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Upper Peninsula Honor Flight has taken more than 300 U.P. veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorial in their honor and other landmarks.

The veterans are flown from Escanaba to the nation’s capitol and in the course of one day, see many sights, meet scores of people and are applauded by hundreds of strangers they encounter along the way before returning home later that same day.

It’s a few hours filled with myriad memories for these American heroes. Here are a few “snapshots” of the many special moments on U.P. Honor Flight Mission IV, which happened May 1:

Brass shines

The World War II Memorial was the first stop for the veterans after landing to a warm welcome at Reagan National Airport. Waiting right as the doors opened on the three large buses transporting the veterans, their guardians for the day and the rest of their traveling party were U.S. Senator Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek.

From there, many of the veterans were stunned to find “brass” – high-ranking officers from the Pentagon – were standing in line to shake their hands. These included Navy Rear Adm. Nora Tyson and Navy Captain Jeff Davis, who is a native of Escanaba.

“We are proud to be here to welcome these heroes,” Davis said as he shook hand after hand.

Later, he and many other present-day military personnel posed for photos with the veterans.

No one had to tell anyone to smile.

Special surprise

As the U.P. Honor Flight contingent boarded the buses to leave the World War II Memorial, a special guest popped in to each bus to say a few words.

That was Earl Morse, one of the founders of the The Honor Flight Network program that has become a national phenomenon.

Morse, a physician assistant who retired from the Air Force as a captain in 1998, wanted to honor the WWII veterans he had taken care of through the years.

In May 2004, the World War II Memorial was finally completed and Morse heard many older veterans talking about the long-awaited tribute to their service. But many, too, were unable to travel on their own, for health or financial reasons.

So Morse put together the inaugural Honor Flight in May 2005, taking 12 veterans in six small planes from Ohio to Virginia, then by van to Washington.

It grew from there and became the Honor Flight Network.

Visiting the WWII Memorial May 1 with a group from Arizona, Morse stopped to greet the U.P. veterans as well.

“You people saved this world,” Morse said. “Thank you and God bless you.”

Newberry men

John Duflo of Newberry, who participated in U.P. Honor Flight Mission IV, was surprised by not one but two Newberry natives who are current military members.

“This man is the reason I joined the Air Force,” Lt. Col. Rich Fillman said of Duflo.

“I told him he ought to join,” Fillman said, nodding. “I am glad he listened to me.”

Brian Case, who graduated from Newberry High School in 1994, also surprised Duflo at the memorial.

“He’s a great man,” Case said, pointing to Duflo. “He’s influenced a lot of people.”

Duflo smiled as the two younger men posed for a photo with him.

“This is wonderful,” Duflo said.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net