ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Wednesday morning, veterans from across the Upper Peninsula leave for Washington, D.C. on Honor Flight Mission XXII.
Ahead of their one-day trip to the nation’s capital, veterans attended a banquet in their honor on Tuesday evening.
“We’re at 1,629 veterans that we have taken out to D.C. from across the Upper Peninsula,” said Upper Peninsula Honor Flight President Scott Knauf.
Flight XXII will have 79 passengers, including one Korean War veteran, 78 Vietnam veterans, and four female veterans.
“I believe that’s the most women that we’ve ever had on a flight,” Knauf said. “I’m excited to have four women, so we are going to make a stop at the Women’s Memorial in D.C.”
At the banquet, each of those veterans was recognized by the branch in which they served.
Veteran Noel Roberts served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1967.
“I spent a lot of time going to various places in Vietnam,” Roberts said. “Also going to the Philippines, where we had to go photograph the volcanoes for the Philippine government. Our systems would tell us if and when they were going to erupt.”
For Roberts, preparing for the Honor Flight has brought back a lot of memories.
“Around Vietnam, my younger brother was shot over there,” he said. “I got a chance to go around the country trying to find him. I ended up finding him about 60 miles south from where he was when I originally started off down in Vũng Tàu.”
Roberts is especially looking forward to seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is one of a few he feels a personal connection to.
“The other one I’d like to see is the Korean War because I had a lot of older friends that served—including my brother—in Korea,” Roberts said.
Army veteran John Provo—who served from 1969 to 1993—volunteered to serve his country at the age of 17.
“I think I’m going to gain more of an appreciation of what I did back then that, really, I didn’t understand,” Provo said. “Now that I’m a little older, I understand the loss and I also understand what this did to me to shape me into being a better man.”
Many of Provo’s fellow vets have told him the Honor Flight is an experience he’ll never forget.
“I really feel, at this point in my life, that I need to get all the good experiences that God has for me out there,” said Provo. “I believe this will be an awesome memory for me.
He hopes the monuments help others to never forget the sacrifices made by America’s servicemembers.
“Just maybe, somebody else can see what all these veterans have actually done to protect our freedoms in this world,” Provo said.
The Honor Flight sets off for D.C. on Wednesday, September 13, at 6:30 a.m. The plane will return to the Delta County Airport at 8:30 p.m.
The public is encouraged to greet the veterans when they arrive.
“I’m looking for the community to come out to the Delta County Airport and welcome the veterans,” Knauf said. “Give them the welcome home that they never did get 50 and 60 years ago.”
Anyone interested in welcoming the veterans back to Escanaba can gather in the Van Rooy Hangar beginning at 7:00 p.m.
WZMQ 19 will have interviews with some of the veterans on Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Mission XXII on our newscasts on Thursday, September 14.