Taking flight

MARQUETTE – The upcoming mission of Upper Peninsula Honor Flight will wing its way to Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, once again filled with World War II veterans.

Originally, flight organizers had opened the application process for this fifth trip to veterans of the Korean War.

“We are very excited that WWII applications exceeded our expectations and Mission V will be approximately 78 WWII veterans,” said Barb Van Rooy, flight organizer. “Korean veterans will be added to flights in 2014.”

Van Rooy said the veterans come from 13 of the U.P.’s 15 counties, with the most hailing from Marquette County.

The experience for the U.P. Honor Flight veterans is at no charge to them in appreciation for their service and sacrifice to the country. Upper Peninsula Honor Flight is part of the National Honor Flight Network.

Each veteran is accompanied by a “guardian” who pays his or her own expenses associated with the flight. Van Rooy said there is a waiting list of people who want to be guardians on Honor Flight missions.

Guardian training sessions are scheduled in the weeks before the flight, with people who have served in the post in the past helping to train the next group. Guardian training in Marquette will take place Aug. 22.

The U.P. Honor Flight is entirely a volunteer organization and has 501 (c) 3 status.

In the first four missions, more than 300 World War II veterans were transported to Washington, D.C., to see the WW II Memorial and other monuments in the area. Those veterans have another special honor coming their way when reunions for the first five flights take place at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris.

“The invitations should be going out this week or early next week,” Van Rooy said. “(The reunion for) Mission I and II will be Sunday, Sept. 29 while the gathering for Mission III, IV and V will be Monday, Sept. 30. It is being cosponsored by the Island Resort and Casino.

“These events will be a chance to visit with veterans and guardians,” she said. “It will include a full meal, entertainment, a speaker and an opportunity to say thank you to our WWII veterans to show our appreciation.”

The speaker will be Reiko McKendry, who was raised in Japan. McKendry has spoken at other Honor Flight gatherings around the country, Van Rooy said.

“She worked for General Motors as a liaison between GM and Japanese (auto) plants,” Van Rooy said. “Her mission in life since she retired is to thank World War II veterans for how they saved Japan. We thought that would be an interesting concept as we never think about what our WWII veterans did for other countries.”

Those wishing to make a contribution toward the mission to send these veterans to visit their monuments can mail them to: Upper Peninsula Honor Flight, Care Of: Community Foundation For The Upper Peninsula, 2420 1st Ave South Suite 101, Escanaba, MI 49829.

For more information on U.P. Honor Flight, contact Van Rooy at 906-280-1471. Another flight is being organized for the spring of 2014.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.