GLADSTONE - A total of 80 World War II veterans will be on their way to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 26, when the second Upper Peninsula Honor Flight takes off from the Delta County Airport.
According to Honor Flight coordinator Barb Van Rooy, the veterans, who range in age from 85-94, will be accompanied by 73 guardians and volunteers from the Honor Flight Committee.
"We expect everything to be about the same as the inaugural flight last September," Van Rooy said. "We'll land in Baltimore and have a motorcycle escort into Washington to the memorial." After spending time at the memorial, the group will enjoy a bus tour to see various points of interest in the city. A stop at the Arlington National Cemetery will round out the trip.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Roswell Anderson and his gaurdian Paul Anderson, both of Marquette, make their way to the plane at the Delta County Airport during departure for the 2011 Inaugural U.P. Honor Flight.
"We won't be able to take part in the wreath laying like we did last time, but that's about the only change," Van Rooy said.
The return flight later that afternoon will include the emotional "Roll Call" event when the veterans will be presented with envelopes filled with letters and cards from family members and friends, as well as hand-made greetings from elementary children throughout the area.
Van Rooy gives a great deal of credit to her committee, which includes three individuals who served as guardians on the first flight.
"They were all wonderful to work with and they all just did their part to get this ready," she said.
Those on the flight will enjoy a "meet-and-greet" at the Peninsula Bay Inn on Wednesday evening and are expected to be at the airport by 6:30 Thursday morning.
Van Rooy said an honor guard from the Marine Corps League is expected to be on hand for the send-off and will back when the flight returns to Escanaba later that same day. Also scheduled to be at the airport is the Little German Band from Escanaba and the Remnants Barbershop Chorus who will play and sing music of the 1940's
"We'd like to have as many people as possible join us either in the morning or when we come back," Van Rooy said.
Even though she already has one flight under her belt, Van Rooy admitted she is a little nervous about this flight.
"The first flight went so perfect, it's hard to imagine that we can do the same thing again," she said. "But there are always a little last minute problems that will probably need to be taken care of."
Van Rooy said she was both dismayed and heartened at a recent report about an Honor Flight from Florida that got stranded overnight when their airplane was struck by a cart while on the tarmac ready to take off for home. When the plane was deemed unsafe for flight, the coordinators had to inform their welcoming committee gathered in Florida about the delay and scramble to find enough motel and hotel rooms for the veterans and their guardians to stay for the night.
"By then it was midnight and the group had to be back at the airport by 7 the next morning so I don't imagine any of them got very much sleep," she said. "Those are the kinds of unexpected things that you can't help but think about."
After reading several newspaper reports on the incident, Van Rooy said she noticed that some focused on the negative side of the story while others portrayed the positive side.
"I was especially touched when I read the comments from the veterans, themselves," she said. "They are truly not only part of the 'Greatest Generation,' but also the most non-complaining."