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A ‘life-changing’ journey for vets: U.P. Honor Flight plans September trips

Harry Krebs of Escanaba, right, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, is welcomed back home by his wife Sandy Krebs after he went on Mission XVII of the U.P. Honor Flight in September 2019. (Journal file photo)

GLADSTONE — It might be a year and a half later than they envisioned, but Upper Peninsula veterans will get to see some of the country’s most hallowed landmarks this September as part of the U.P. Honor Flight.

Flights were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For this year, the national Honor Flight Network allowed activities starting in June.

This fall, 85 veterans will head out on each of two flights, one on Sept. 1 and one on Sept. 29, said Scott Knauf, president of U.P. Honor Flight. The veterans are joined by 85 guardians and 15 support crew.

As of now, there are more than 400 veterans on the wait list, Knauf said. Those who were on the original list for the May 2020 flight have first priority, Knauf said.

Any veteran who served between 1941 and May 1975 is eligible, though priority is given to World War II veterans, Knauf said. There are two World War II veterans on the list for the flight, Knauf said.

The trips last a day, flying out of Escanaba at 6:30 a.m. and returning the same day at 8:30 p.m.

Once in Washington, the veterans visit sites such as the Lincoln Memorial and monuments to those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

It’s a huge experience for the veterans, Knauf said.

“Sometimes I get a letter a year after their flight, and there’s still telling how they enjoyed it so much,” he said. “It’s was life-changing for them. And it is a trip of healing for the veterans, not a family vacation.”

Each flight costs $102,000. But the area’s residents have always stepped up to help, Knauf said. Airfare, meals, a deluxe tour bus, t-shirt and other items are provided for the veterans free of charge.

“We are able to continue our mission because of the way the Upper Peninsula supports us,” he said.

To apply or donate, visit upperpeninsulahonorflight.org, call 906-280-2871 or email info@upperpeninsulahonorflight.org.

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