WASHINGTON, D.C. - The first thing Marquette resident Frank Fogle did was call his wife to tell her when he heard the news Thursday.
In the midst of the third Upper Peninsula Honor Flight - taking nearly 80 World War II veterans to see the monument in their honor in Washington, D.C. - Fogle found out his name had been chosen in a drawing for a most special task: Participating in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.
Fogle, who served in the 3261 Signal Service Co. of the U.S. Army in the European Theater during the Second World War, was overwhelmed when his was one of four names chosen for the honor.
Robert Winton and Frank Fogle put their hands over their hearts during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Thursday. The men were chosen to perform the task from among the 80 or so veterans who took part in the U.P. Honor Flight’s visit to the nation’s capital. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
U.S. Senator Carl Levin, D-Detroit, talks with World War II veteran Dorothy Percifield of Wilson at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Thursday. Percifield was one of five women veterans to make the trip as part of the U.P. Honor Flight. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
From the left, Jerry Gauthier of Iron Mountain, Robert Winton of Quinnesec, Frank Fogle of Marquette and Bertrum Doutree of Escanaba pose just after they participated in the laying of the wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Thursday. The men were part of the U.P. Honor Flight that visited a number of landmarks throughout the day. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"I don't think I have a handkerchief big enough to hold the tears I'm going to cry," Fogle said as he prepared for the ceremony along with the others from the U.P. Honor Flight whose names were picked: Bert Doutree of Escanaba; Jerry Gauthier of Iron Mountain; and Robert Winton of Quinnesec.
Indeed, the solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns was a highlight of this third visit to the nation's capital made by a group from the U.P. The first "mission" was in September 2011 and the second in April 2012.
"We're planning another trip for next spring," said Barb VanRooy, Honor Flight coordinator. "We already have a waiting list started for that."
Fundraising for the spring 2013 flight will start soon. The Honor Flight trip is offered to WWII veterans at no cost to them. Each veteran is paired with a guardian who pays to make the journey and sees to the veteran's needs during a busy, history-filled one-day trip to Washington.
Honor Flights take place from many parts of the nation, all with the intent of giving as many WWII veterans as possible the chance to see the World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004.
After departing the Delta County Airport in Escanaba at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the U.P. Honor Flight not only visited the WWII Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknowns, but also the Korea, Vietnam, Lincoln and Marine Corps memorials as well as taking a bus tour of the city. The bus tour included a police escort, meaning the group didn't have to stop for red lights as they made their way around the busy city.
For the first time, some of the group visited the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The U.P. Honor Flight included five female WWII veterans this time around and they and some of the male veterans opted to visit that landmark instead of visiting the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Augusta Houser of Iron River was one of the five female WWII veterans. She served in the Women's Army Corps during the Second World War and said this special women's memorial was something discussed as early as 1950, when the first WAC alumni association formed.
"I think it's fine," she said after spending time at the museum. "It took a long time to get it and I think they've done a good job with it."
In the course of touring the first stop of the day at the World War II Memorial, the U.P. veterans were greeted by both of their U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow, D-Ann Arbor, and Carl Levin, D-Detroit, who chatted with the vets and had photos taken.
"It is always a great privilege to honor Michigan's brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country," Stabenow said. "The mission of the Honor Flight Network is a fitting tribute to our veterans, giving them an opportunity to see their memorials firsthand. We owe all of our veterans our unwavering support."
Levin said: "I know it was a moving visit for our U.P. vets to be at the World War II Memorial. The memorial recognizes their service to our country and the world, and it was a privilege to be with them as they saw the expression of our nation's gratitude."
Due to a lightning storm, the U.P. Honor Flight returned two hours late to Escanaba, not arriving until 11:30 p.m. Thursday, but still, hundreds of people lined the tarmac in the 30-some-degree weather to greet the veterans on their return. Included in the group was U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, who shook the veterans' hands as they disembarked from the plane after a long, but exhilarating day spent in Washington.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.