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UP Honor Flight looks ahead to 2021

MARQUETTE — Mission XVIII of the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight again has been postponed, this time to 2021.

Originally slated for May 20, Mission XVIII was pushed back due to COVID-19 to today, Sept. 23.

With no end to the pandemic in sight just yet, the 18th installment of the U.P. Honor Flight will try again on May 5, with the same 83 veterans hoping to be cleared for takeoff from Delta County Airport when the time rolls around.

“We had a full flight schedule for May, and then that was canceled,” U.P. Honor Flight president Scott Knauf said. “Those veterans were scheduled to go this Wednesday, and now that’s canceled. That flight will be carried over to next May, and includes two World War II vets. One is currently 100 years old, and the other is 97 years old.”

Knauf said nine Korean War veterans also are slated to take part in the flight, and the remaining 72 veterans fought in the Vietnam War.

Beyond May 5, the next scheduled Honor Flight missions will be May 26 and Sept. 22, but in order for those flights to become a reality, coronavirus will need to be grounded.

Asked what it would take to fly next year, Knauf said health and safety needs to be assured for everyone involved.

“As long as it’s safe for our veterans,” he said. “Health-wise and to keep them safe in (Washington) D.C. This year, there were a lot of riots out there, which is also a big reason we didn’t fly. It wasn’t physically safe for our veterans, and health-wise, it wasn’t safe.”

The U.P. Honor Flight first took to the skies on Sept. 22, 2011. Since then, 17 missions have been completed, done twice annually, with one flight in the spring and one in the fall. Flights max out at 85 veterans, who are flown to Washington, D.C., for free to visit war memorials and reflect.

Veterans who served from 1941 to May 1975 currently qualify for the flight, according to the U.P. Honor Flight website. Deemed a “Tour of Honor,” the free flight provides the veteran with air transportation, meals, bus transportation, a T-shirt and more. Each veteran can choose one chaperone to fly with, and that person must be between 18 and 65 years old and cannot be a spouse.

The U.P. Honor Flight is overseen by the National Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization that works to fly as many war veterans to Washington, D.C., as possible. World War II veterans and veterans with terminal illness currently take priority.

Since 2005, the National Honor Flight Network has flown more than 159,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and view war memorials.

When COVID-19 struck and didn’t slow down, the National Honor Flight Network cancelled all Honor Flight missions to Washington, D.C,. for the time being.

Knauf said 410 veterans are on the waiting list for future flights, and those who are interested in flying can submit an application that can be found on the U.P. Honor Flight website.

Knauf added that the organization is seeking a local quilting group to make blankets for each veteran.

For questions or more information on the U.P. Honor Flight, Knauf can be reached at 906-280-2871. Information and flight applications also can be viewed at www.uphonorflight.org.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248, or rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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