The Mission VI UP Honor Flight left Escanaba bright and early Wednesday morning en route to an important place many veterans have never been to: Washington D.C. The 14 WWII veterans and 64 Korean War veterans were well-received with a warm welcome and a grateful crowd upon arrival at the Reagan National Airport. We all boarded the buses, sang some wartime songs, and headed to our first stop: the World War Two memorial.
??I??ve been to D.C. before, but before the monument,?? said WWII veteran, Bob Veeser. ??It was very great and nice. I??m glad to be here.??
Throughout the entire day, the veterans were greeted by students and tourists stopping and extending their thanks to them. For Ernie Mariucci, the last time he had been in Washington D.C. was in the service.
??I was 21 in the service. They didn't have these things around here. I wanted to come a long time ago. I enjoyed every minute of it,?? Mariucci said.
??[It??s] nice to see the honoring of the main branches and all the veterans,?? Veeser said.
After the WWII memorial, we were back on the bus and on our way to the Korean War memorial; this being the first UP Honor Flight that included Korean War veterans. The memorial brought back vivid memories for veteran brothers Albert and Robert Calcari as they looked back at their time in the service.
??For years you don't talk about it, but then you bring it back,?? said Robert.
??It??s been a long time,?? said Albert.
Near to the Korean War memorial was the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War memorial, an area that boasts a beautiful vista of the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, and across the way, the WWII Memorial.
Thankful for the police escort that allowed us to zip through downtown D.C. traffic with ease, we made way to the Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Our last stop was the Air Force memorial where we enjoyed an exhilarating performance from the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. It was now time to begin the journey home. Once in the air, it was time for ??Mail Call??, where the veterans received letters, notes, poems, and drawings from family and friends. As we descended towards the Delta County Airport, we could make out a crowd of the Patriot Guard, politicians, family, friends and the community eager to welcome home our area??s finest: our veterans.
The UP Honor Flight is free for the veterans. Funding for the flight is possible by donations from individuals and businesses, as well as group fundraisers. The flight is run entirely by volunteers, and the next flight will be taking place on Thursday, September 4, 2014. Be sure to tune in to your TV6 Early News on Thursday and Friday for a special report on the UP Honor Flight, Mission VI.