Milestone trip

Upper Peninsula Honor Flight set to break 1,000 mark for veterans served — so far

Upper Peninsula veterans and their trip guardians explore the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., during Upper Peninsula Honor Flight’s Mission 12 in May of 2017. With the upcoming Mission 14 on Wednesday, the flight will have taken more than 1,000 Upper Peninsula veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials in their honor and other landmarks, all at no charge to the veterans. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — With Mission 14 of Upper Peninsula Honor Flight heading to Washington, D.C., Wednesday, the organization will be reaching a milestone: The number of veterans who have made the trip to the nation’s capital will roll past the 1,000 mark.

“Before this mission, we had taken 991 veterans. With 81 on the trip, it will be 1,072 veterans since the first mission in 2011,” said Scott Knauf, UPHF president.

UPHF first was founded to bring World War II veterans to Washington to see the memorial in their honor, which did not open until Memorial Day weekend 2004.

Since the first few missions, the veterans taken on the missions have expanded to include those from the Korean War and then the Vietnam War vets.

Knauf said Mission 14 will include three WWII veterans, 19 from the Korean War and 59 who served during the Vietnam War when the chartered SunCountry jet leaves Delta County Airport in Escanaba at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“We’ll be flying in and out of Baltimore this time,” Knauf said. “There’s a very full day planned for the veterans. We’ll visit 11 memorials, eight at which we will stop and tour.”

Five other Honor Flights from across the country will be visiting the nation’s capital the same day, including the Old Glory Honor Flight out of Appleton, Wisconsin, all part of the Honor Flight Network.

The network was founded in 2005 and its various branches bring those who served to Washington at no cost to the veterans. That means a lot of funds need to be raised for each and every trip to Washington, which are done twice a year by the Upper Peninsula group, one in spring and one in early autumn.

Veterans are assigned a guardian who spends the day taking photos and making sure the veteran has everything he or she needs during the trip. The guardian pays $500 to take the flight, which helps with some of the costs.

Donations, of course, are always welcome, but UPHF fundraisers are taking place all across the U.P. year round.

For instance, UPHF is in partnership with Valley Med Flight. Valley Med covers the U.P. and they are part of a nationwide network, AirMedCare, which provides helicopter transportation in times of medical crisis.

“Our Honor Flight earns $10 for every new membership enrolled that mentions us,” Knauf said. “If you’re a member and you need (helicopter medical) service anywhere across the country they serve, they will accept your insurance coverage for the cost of your flight. That covers your entire household.”

One of the helicopters will be on display at the tarmac so those coming to see the flight off or to greet it when it returns will be able to see it.

Knauf said UPHF has also made arrangements with a bus company in Iron Mountain which for $15 will bring folks from there to and from Escanaba to greet the flight when it returns home at approximately 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“The welcome home event is pure excitement,” Knauf said. “It gives a glimpse of what Honor Flight is all about. It’s very rewarding when people come to greet these veterans when they return home. It’s emotional, but it does the heart good.”

The doors will open at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the welcome home at the Delta County Airport.

“This is where we’re going to unveil the motorcycle which we will be raffling off,” Knauf said. “Tickets will be available all summer long.”

Mission 15 has been set for Sept. 18, Knauf said.

To learn more about Upper Peninsula Honor Flight — including information on how to sign up as a veteran or a guardian — visit uphonorflight.org

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