Honor Flight en route to DC

Community members welcome back U.P. veterans who took part in the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Mission XI in September 2016 at the Delta County Airport in Escanaba. Mission XII will take place Wednesday, and the public is encouraged to come out and show their support for the returning veterans. (Daily Press file photo by Haley Gustafson)

ESCANABA — Veterans from throughout the Upper Peninsula departed from the Delta County Airport this morning for Mission XII of the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight.

Since 2011, the U.P. Honor Flight has been taking World War II and Korean War veterans on an all expense paid trip to see the memorials erected in their honor at the nation’s capitol.

New this year was the addition of accepting applications for the flight from all Vietnam War veterans. According to U.P. Honor Flight President Scott Knauf, the response has been great.

Knauf explained that on this mission, there will be six World War II, 35 Korean War and 33 Vietnam War veterans on the flight. In all, a total of 74 veterans, along with their guardians, will take part in the trip to Washington. The flight took off at 6:30 a.m. today.

During the trip, veterans and their guardians will see 11 different memorials, touring nine, said Knauf. Stops include the World War II, Lincoln, Navy, Vietnam, Disabled Veterans memorials and others.

“It’s a very emotional time for them,” said Knauf, noting the trip not only brings veterans who have been through the same experiences together, but it also gives them a chance to talk with others who have been to war and share stories of their time in service.

For the second time, veterans will be able to see the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, said Knauf.

“The veterans do enjoy that,” said Knauf, adding they normally don’t allow tour buses to visit the memorial due to limited parking, but Knauf and other Honor Flight volunteers made the tour possible for Mission XII.

In addition, the veterans will tour Arlington National Cemetery along with a presentation from the Silent Drill Team and changing of the guard.

At around 8:30 tonight the flight will be landing at Delta County Airport. The public is invited to come and welcome back the veterans from their trip.

Rain and thunderstorms are predicted for this evening, said Knauf, adding he hopes this doesn’t deter people from coming out and welcoming back those who fought for our freedoms.

“They are not fair weather warriors,” said Knauf.

Weather permitting, Knauf said the Escanaba Township Volunteer Fire Department will be raising a 12-by-18-foot flag, in honor of the veterans after the landing. The airport hangar’s doors will open at 7 tonight. The public is welcome to wait in the hangar until the arrival of the veterans.