Saturday’s scheduled Honor Flight will be going on as scheduled, despite the ongoing government shut down.
Honor Flights fly veterans from all around the country to Washington D.C., in order for them to experience the recently unveiled World War II monument. When the government instituted a partial shut-down last week, the open-air monument was ringed with barricades and closed to the public. That was until an Honor Flight from the Gulf Coast/Mississippi Chapter pushed aside the barricades, and staked a claim to their own monument. Their actions were captured on video, which immediately went viral.
The monument has thus-far stayed open to the Honor Flights, but representatives of North Country Honor Flight are still wary.
“The Park Service had the common sense to leave them alone, but maybe when the media loses interest, the barricades will go back up,” said Daniel Kaifetz, Director of North Country Honor Flight.
He explained that the government is letting Honor Flights in one bus at a time, under what they are calling a freedom of speech exemption. They could cancel that exemption however, by enforcing a requirement that gatherings over a certain size require a permit. With several honor flights already behind them, Kaifetz discussed how moving an experience it has been for the veterans who are able to go. Of the 16.5 million people who served in the armed forces during WWII, only 1 million veterans are still alive.
“I tell them you carry 15 of your war buddies with you. They’re seeing it through your eyes, the 15 million who couldn’t go,” said Kaifetz. The feeling of closure that most of the Honor Flight participants are experiencing is profound, said Kaifetz. He has seen veterans talk about the war for the first time in nearly 70 years.
“It’s a life changing experience for so many people,” he said.
North Country Honor Flights has put together a yearbook of their first several flights which will be sold locally to raise money for future flights. They are currently looking for local businesses who would like to buy advertising in the book. Interested businesses can contact Kaifetz at 834-9901.
Saturday’s Honor Flight will be leaving from the old base oval at 6:45 a.m.
Fifteen North Country WW-II veterans will be on board, including two from Vermont for the first time. Among the heroes on the flight are a Brigadier General, two D-Day veterans, and a Silver Star recipient from 101st Airborne Division.
The public is encouraged to attend the Flag Ceremony at the Old Base Parade Grounds, U.S. Oval, at 7 a.m. sharp, followed by the Sendoff Ceremony at Plattsburgh International Airport at 7:45 a.m. prior to the flight. This is the last flight of the year for North Country Honor Flight. Next spring flights will resume on May 17, 2014.