ESCANABA - Veterans across the region get ready - the fifth U.P. Honor Flight will be departing from the Delta County Airport Wednesday.
The flight takes World War II veterans from across the Upper Peninsula to visit the memorial erected in their honor in Washington, D.C.
Prior to the flight, veterans will have a meet and greet Tuesday night from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Quality Inn & Suites in Escanaba. About 65 rooms at the hotel are reserved for the traveling veterans, and the meet and greet, which includes a light supper, allows the travelers to become acquainted before boarding the plane.
Wednesday morning veterans and their guardians, volunteers assigned to take care of each veteran on the trip, will leave the Delta County Airport on a 162 passenger plane at 7:30 a.m. Seventy-seven veterans will be traveling to Washington, D.C. on this flight.
"Being our fifth flight, I wasn't expecting that many World War II vets that hadn't gone yet," said Barb VanRooy, coordinator for the U.P. Honor Flight program.
Once the veterans reach D.C., they will visit the World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and Lincoln memorials. For the first time, the U.P. Honor Flight veterans will also visit the Air Force Memorial, where the Air Force Drill Team will be putting on a display.
"The date of this flight, Sept. 18, is the 66th birthday of the Air Force," said VanRooy, noting that the Air Force was actually a branch of the Army, the U.S. Army Air Corps, until 1947.
"Fifteen of the veterans were in the Air Force so they get to have their birthday party that day," she added.
The veterans will return to Escanaba at 8:30 p.m. The airplane hangar will open at 7 p.m. for anyone who wishes to welcome the veterans back home. In the past, some local residents have made signs to show their support.
"There's nothing like hometown people welcoming you. You know, we can go to D.C. and see people welcoming us, but recognizing a face in the crowd? That's something special," said VanRooy.
Music will be provided at the hangar by the Barbarshoppers and the Escanaba City Band, which will be playing musical selections from the 1940s.