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      U.P. Honor Flight Mission 5 returns home

      Veterans shook hands with the people greeting them upon arrival
      The Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Mission Five has returned home after its trip to Washington, D.C. The plane full of World War II veterans landed at the Delta County Airport Wednesday night.

      Fantastic, unbelievable...words these veterans used to describe this unique experience. The Honor Fight takes veterans to the nation's Capitol to see the memorials that stand in their honor.

      "I enjoyed it, seeing all the other guys there, you know? Telling their stories," said veteran Gus Groenevelg of Iron Mountain.

      The group of 76 veterans from all around the U.P. spent the day touring memorials in D.C. When they arrived in Escanaba, they found a homecoming like no other. Hundreds of friends and family greeted the veterans as they arrived with an energy I can only describe as overwhelming.

      "I think it's wonderful! These men have had a wonderful time tonight, so I think it's just great. They deserve the honor and we thank them all," said Evelyn December who arrived to greet her father on the flight.

      Navy veteran Alfred Smith says he lost count of how many of his loved ones came to greet him.

      "Well, it was unbelievable to see all the people honoring us, just unbelievable. And then when I got farther down, what was unbelievable was to see so many of my family members," said Alfred Smith of Ontonagon, a Navy veteran from both World War II and the Korean War.

      Unique to this Honor Flight was that it took place on the anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Air Force. The veterans were treated to a performance by the Air Force Drill Team. (See the attached pictures.)

      The five missions have taken nearly 400 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.

      "Being honored is a credit to everybody as far as I was concerned," said Navy veteran Delbert Storms of Gwinn, and Evelyn December's father.

      Mission Six is set for next Spring. Organizers say that as long as there is enough money and interest, they will keep holding honor flights indefinitely. Flights are also open to Korean War veterans, but World War II veterans take precedent. To learn how to donate or sign up for the flight, visit the U.P. Honor Flight website.