Volunteers big part of Honor Flight

ESCANABA — U.P. Honor Flight Mission XVI departed from the Delta County Airport this morning with veterans bound for Washington DC. Among them were people who help make these trips possible — volunteers.

Paula Waeghe, a veteran volunteer of numerous Honor Flight missions, missed her first flight Wednesday due to illness. She called in sick Tuesday as she also missed the meet-and-greet at Quality Inn.

Another veteran volunteer, Dr. Mary Tobin Anderson of Marquette, participated in her 10th mission. Her first flight came in 2013.

Employed at Lakewood Clinic in Harvey, Anderson is one of three medics on each flight. “We keep an eye on everybody. We sort of troubleshoot if anything comes up on the flight,” she said.

It doesn’t allow for much sight-seeing, but they are not on the flight for that purpose. “It has been just minor issues, little scrapes and things,” said Anderson. “We’re not assigned a veteran so we can be available, sort of mingle.

“We always keep an eye on the vets, our main priority, and on the guardians.”

They may help with medications, such as administering insulin when even a family member of a veteran has trouble handling that procedure.

“Some vets are more fragile so we keep an eye on them and support their guardian,” said Anderson. “Sometimes it is overwhelming for a guardian.”

Anderson’s father, Dr. James Tobin Jr., of Ishpeming, was a World War II veteran and her sister, Catherine Tobin, served in the Air Force.

“I wanted to serve (on Honor Flight) partly to honor him and my sister. I jumped at the opportunity. This way I get to meet as many veterans and guardians as I can.”

She has also served as a missionary to Greece and Jordan, working with Syrian refugees, since 2017. The 2004 graduate of Michigan State University’s medical school, she has four children, Anderson said “It has been an amazing experience. I am absolutely blessed to have this privilege.”

Twin brothers from Marquette were also on this flight. In fact, Jerry (first squad) and Terry (second squad) Weigold claim they were the only twin brothers to serve in combat in Vietnam together. Both were wounded twice while serving with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division anywhere from the Mekong Delta to the western Central Highlands from 1968-69.

Jerry carried his brother out of the battlefield when Terry was wounded the first time, when he got shot in his arm and leg. “I couldn’t see any (bullet) holes in his body,” said Jerry. “I held up his pants leg and it was full of holes.”

Terry received one of his Purple Hearts from Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam at the time.

Terry said he would fly in helicopters at tree top level looking for enemy troops. “You could see the fox holes, we would draw fire and the gunships (above them) would shoot rockets.

“It was very classified secret missions,” Terry said of what he called “sniffer missions” around Cu Chi.

They also served as tunnel rats in that area, once finding a loaded recoilless rifle. Both served at the point and point flank on patrols through the boondocks, spending more than four months in various capacities.

“We just wanted to stay out there and go hunting,” said Jerry. “Almost every night we were on patrol, or on listening posts (about 100 yards beyond the unit’s perimeter).

The brothers agreed they worried about each other, but no more than they did with their fellow grunts. “We were all together, we were all the same,” said Terry. Jerry added “death was so common, you didn’t worry about it.”

They were both drafted after graduating from Marquette High School, and both eagerly discuss their adventures, which once had a string of 143 straight days when they were not shot at by Viet Cong troops.

“We live together, we hunt together, we talk about all the time,” said Terry. “Sometimes Jerry remembers things, sometimes I remember things.”