Friendship, service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marquette residents Peter Shelafoe and Wendel Suckow have been friends for a long time.

That was evident to anyone observing the pair as they participated in the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight on Wednesday.

At each stop in the busy day, the two veterans of the Korean War laughed and chatted.

“How long have we been friends? A heck of a long time,” Shelafoe said. “I’d say it has been a good 40 years.”

“Why do I like Pete? We have a good time together,” Suckow said.

“Same for me,” Shelafoe said. “I like to spend time with Wendel playing cards. And we like to spend time with our spouses together. We all enjoy going to dinner, too.”

They didn’t know each other during the war – Shelafoe served at NATO headquarters in Paris while Suckow went to Korea – but have found common ground since in serving the community, especially veterans.

“He gets me,” Shelafoe said. “It feels really good to have a friend like that.”

The pair took part in the sixth mission of U.P. Honor Flight, which left the Delta County Airport in Escanaba at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday carrying to the nation’s capital 78 veterans of World War II and the Korean War and a guardian for each.

When the flight touched back down to a raucous welcome from hundreds of well-wishers at about 9:10 p.m., the veterans had experienced a whirlwind of activity including visiting the World War II Memorial, along with many other landmarks.

Throughout the journey, they were met with cheers, flag-waving and handshakes from a wide range of people including school children from Oregon, brass from the Pentagon and people who just happened upon the contingent during their own sightseeing in Washington.

A group of young military members was among those greeting the U.P. Honor Flight at Reagan National Airport, saluting the veterans as each walked past. Along with them was Michael Frazier, who lost both his legs serving as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan.

“It’s an honor to welcome the flight,” Frazier said. “These are American heroes.”

During the busy day, the U.P. veterans were treated to a show by the United States Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team, which put on a display of precision and discipline using 11-pound weapons.

“That was a terrific show,” said Rene Lippens of Gladstone after watching the performance, which took place at the Air Force Memorial. “Those young men were amazing.”

In its six missions to date, U.P. Honor Flight has taken nearly 500 veterans to Washington. Most have been World War II veterans, but the Mission VI flight included those who served during the Korean War.

The next Honor Flight is set for Sept. 4

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.