WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Mission V Wednesday was an all-in-the family experience for World War II veterans Elmer Hildenbrand of Skandia and Bob Lawrence of Marquette.
Not only are the men brothers-in-law, their guardians for the trip were their sons, Steve Hildenbrand of Higgins Lake and Bill Lawrence of Marquette.
Elmer and Bob married sisters, Shirley and Phyllis Swanson, respectively. But that happened after their service in World War II.
From 1943-46, Elmer served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific, while Bob served in the same theater, but in the Navy in 1945-46, then in the U.S. Naval Reserve for another four years.
"I met Phyllis after my time in the service," Bob said. "Then I met Elmer through Phyllis."
Elmer had grown up in downstate Lansing, but explained: "I married a Yooper so I moved to the U.P."
Eventually, the Hildenbrands bought a farm in Skandia, where they still reside. They had married in 1947.
Phyllis, the younger Swanson sister, married Bob in 1949. She is now deceased.
"Elmer and I are good friends," Bob said. "It was our wives who brought us together, but we really like each other, too."
It took some planning to coordinate the four family members making the trip together.
"I was going to go on the flight last May but didn't," Elmer said. "Then I found out Steven, Bill and Bob could go this time, so we signed up."
As the four visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial, they expressed gratitude for Honor Flight.
"It's an amazing experience," Bill Lawrence said. "I am glad we all got to have it together."
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