Sixteen million served the American armed forces in World War II. Eighty-three of those veterans from Upper Michigan were able to travel to Washington, D.C. this fall free of charge. They were there for the day to see their war memorials. It was all thanks to the inaugural Upper Peninsula Honor Flight.
While there, the veterans of past wars met those serving in the military today, sparking memories and opinions on the war.
More than 400,000 American military members gave their lives for our country in WWII. That sacrifice hasn't been forgotten, especially by the people who were there.
But war continues today. Almost symbolically, as more than 80 WWII veterans boarded a plane back to Escanaba at the conclusion of what may be their final military honor, dozens of active duty soldiers were boarding planes heading for Afghanistan.
"I feel sorry for them. One came over and shook my hand, and I said, 'I appreciate everything you guys are doing, too,'" said veteran Peter Gorsche.
Many of the U.P. WWII veterans were proud to speak about their own relatives and children currently serving our country's armed forces. Some were even able to come along for the trip, serving as guardians.
But how do World War II veterans feel about the war in Afghanistan? Not everyone supports it.
"I think we're spreading ourselves too thin. I don't think we have any business being in those countries," said veteran Joy Sleeper.
They say things have changed and feel what we're fighting for is different. But in the end, they say the important thing to remember is the people who are affected.
"I hate wars in any place, any form, any country," said veteran Walter 'Whitey' Jensen. "There's innocent people suffering and when they shouldn't have to. It doesn't seem to make the world a better place, all that suffering."
Upper Peninsula Honor Flight hopes to send a second flight this spring; ultimately they aim to send every willing U.P. veteran to see their war memorials before it's too late. They've already got a long waiting list for the next flight. It costs $75,000 to send a group of about 80 veterans to Washington, D.C.
U.P. Honor Flight receives all of its funding through donations. For more information about how you can donate, click here.