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LOOKING AHEAD: U.P. Honor Flight organizers schedule Mission XVIII for 2021

Harry Krebs of Escanaba, right, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, is welcomed back home by his wife Sandy Krebs after he went on Mission XVII of the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight in September 2019. Originally slated for May 20, Mission XVIII of the U. P. Honor Flight was rescheduled to take off today due to COVID-19. However, with the pandemic continuing, Mission XVIII was rescheduled again, with organizers setting a date in May. (Escanaba Daily Press file photo)

MARQUETTE — Mission XVIII of the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight was originally slated for May 20. However, the COVID-19 pandemic led to it being rescheduled for today.

But with the pandemic continuing, Mission XVIII was rescheduled again.

The 18th U.P. Honor Flight is set to take place on May 5, with the same 83 veterans hoping to be clear for takeoff from Delta County Airport when the time rolls around.

“We had a full flight schedule for May (2020), and then that was canceled,” said U.P. Honor Flight president Scott Knauf. “Those veterans were scheduled to go this Wednesday, and now that’s canceled. That flight will be carried over to next May and includes two World War II vets. One is currently 100 years old, and the other is 97 years old.”

Knauf said nine Korean War veterans are also slated to take part in the flight, while the remaining 72 veterans scheduled to take the flight served in the Vietnam War.

Vietnam veteran Richard Pichette, far right, uses paper and a pencil to get the name of his first cousin, Vincent Agius, off of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall with the help of his guardian during the September 2018 Upper Peninsula Honor Flight in Washington, D.C.. The 18th U.P. Honor Flight is set to take place on May 5, with 83 veterans planning to fly from the Delta County Airport to Washington. (Escanaba Daily Press file photo)

Beyond May 5, the next scheduled Honor Flight missions will be May 26 and Sept. 22, but in order for those flights to become a reality, the novel coronavirus situation will need to be under control.

Asked what it would take to fly next ye

ar, Knauf said health and safety needs to be assured for everyone involved.

“As long as it’s safe for our veterans,” he said. “Health-wise and to keep them safe in (Washington) D.C. This year, there were a lot of riots out there, which is also a big reason we didn’t fly. It wasn’t physically safe for our veterans, and health-wise, it wasn’t safe.”

The U.P. Honor Flight first took to the skies on Sept. 22, 2011. A total of 17 missions have been completed so far. The flights are done twice annually, with one flight in the spring and one in the fall.

Flights max out at 85 veterans, who are flown to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials and reflect.

Republic native Master Sgt. Rich Kelley, second from the left, poses with other members of the 89th Airlift Wing of the Presidential Logistics Squadron. The group greeted an Upper Peninsula Honor Flight as it arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., in 2016. (Journal file photo)

Veterans who served from 1941 to May 1975 currently qualify for the flight, according to the U.P. Honor Flight website. Deemed a “Tour of Honor,” the flight is free for veterans, including airfare, meals, bus transportation, a T-shirt and more. Each veteran can choose one chaperone, and that person must be between 18 and 65 years old and cannot be a spouse.

The U.P. Honor Flight is overseen by the National Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization with a mission of flying as many war veterans to Washington, D.C., as possible.

World War II veterans and veterans who have a terminal illness currently take priority for the flights, organizers said.

Since 2005, the National Honor Flight Network has flown over 159,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and view war memorials.

When COVID-19 struck and didn’t slow down, the National Honor Flight Network canceled all Honor Flight missions to Washington, D.C., for the time being.

Knauf said 410 veterans are currently on the waiting list for future flights. Those who are interested in flying can submit an application, which can be found on the U.P. Honor Flight website.

For those who would like to support U.P. Honor Flight, Knauf said the organization is currently seeking a local quilting group to make blankets for each veteran.

For those who have questions or want to learn more about the U.P. Honor Flight, Knauf can be reached at 906-280-2871. Information and flight applications can also be viewed at www.uphonorflight.org.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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